The AP reports (via Time) from Beirut another blood-letting that killed 17 civilians in Daraa in Syria, along with, evidently for the first time, sustained fighting in the streets of Damascus itself.
The Damascus violence was a dramatic shift, since the capital has been relatively quiet compared with other Syrian cities throughout the uprising. Damascus and the northern city of Aleppo, the country’s largest, are under the firm grip of Assad’s security forces.
“Yesterday was a turning point in the conflict,” said Maath al-Shami, an opposition activist in the capital. “There were clashes in Damascus that lasted hours. The battle is in Damascus now.”
Blasts shook the neighborhoods of Qaboun and Barzeh until about 1:30 a.m. on Saturday.
“We spent a night of fear,” one resident said, speaking on condition of anonymity for fear of reprisals. The resident said the shooting and explosions in the capital “were the worst so far.”
As tanks fired shells, troops clashed with rebels in the two neighborhoods, al-Shami said via Skype. He said at least four people were killed.
The battles in the two neighborhoods began during the day Friday, when troops opened fire on anti-Assad protest marches, witnesses said. Also Friday, troops clashed with rebels from the Free Syrian Army in Damascus’ Kfar Souseh district in fierce fighting sparked when the armed fighters attacked a military checkpoint in the area.
The FSA, which groups defectors from the Syrian military with protesters who have taken up weapons, had made an unusually public appearance Thursday night in Kfar Souseh, overtly joining a large opposition rally. The bolder moves were a strong sign the ragtag group is pushing to take its fight to the regime’s base of power.