VIDEO: Syrian Army escalates violent crackdown in Damascus suburbs
Syrian forces brought their fight against protesters to the suburbs of Damascus — an area that has mostly avoided the violence and bloodshed that has claimed nearly 5500 lives in the past 10 months.
The Syrian Army's crackdown on dissident protesters moved closer to the capital over the weekend.
And its violence continued. The latest figures from the United Nations estimate about 5500 people have been killed in the violence. As the violence escalated, the Arab League pulled the plug on its monitoring mission, saying the observers' safety could not be assured and their presence seemed to not be reducing the violence.
Early Sunday morning, nearly 2,000 Syrian Army soldiers launched a concerted attack on the suburbs of Damascus, seeking to dislodge a determined group of protesters and Army defectors who had taken control of the area.
Amer Al Sadeq, a member of the Syrian Revolution Coordinators Union in Damascus, said bringing the revolution to Damascus is important, because it's the only remaining stronghold of regime loyalists.
"The city has been involved heavily in protests over the 10 months of the revolution, but this particular city has the headquarters and many branches, along with huge numbers of personnel, for all the security forces," Al Sadeq said. "I can tell you, any protests that would go in Damascus city would be attended by the security forces in a matter of minutes."
Security forces will use tear gas and violence to try and end the protest.
"The capital city is very important for the regime to keep hold of, and they're doing a lot of work just to keep it like that," he said. "Obviously the regime is struggling to keep it this way, but they will not be able to do that with the huge presence of the FSA (Free Syrian Army) soldiers."
Opposition presence in Damascus has some benefits for the protesters, like greater links with the outside world, but Al Sadeq said he doubted that would make the situation any different.
"The regime has been willing to cut down communication, water and even electricity from any area," Al Sadeq said. "In my particular area, I am in the city, ... every Friday we expect a blackout of any kind by the regime in trying to stop us from submitting the videos and the news about what's going on."
Al Sadeq said the FSA has concentrated in certain areas, like Hama and the Damascus suburbs, to a sufficient degree that those areas have been practically impassable by Syrian officials.
"Every time they would storm those areas, they would be fought back by the soldiers. We estimate their number to be almost 50,000 people at this point," Al Sadeq said. "Considering the numbers we receive from people inside the Army and considering the number of people who failed to report to military service after being called in."
Only 30 percent of the reserves have reported, Al Sadeq said. They face jail time if they don't report.
While opposition figures point to Syrian attempt to mobilize reserves as an indication the regime is on the ropes, regional governments and Syrian allies say this is just standard operating procedure for the Syrian government: mobilize overwhelming force to crush any dissent.
"It's up to the international community to play a big role in how this will end," Al Sadeq said. "People are still determined to go into peaceful protests. Most of the people fighting are already military personnel, so the bloodbath will come mainly from the regime."
Al Sadeq said both Iran and Russia are supporting the lies of the regime — something he can't understand them believing when only 30 percent of soldiers called to active duty are reporting.
"If your country is under attack by external foreigners who are trying to sabotage it, I think the army would have more than the human power it would need, rather than losing 70 percent of it," Al Sadeq said.
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