Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Syrian Rebels Advance

From Washington Post, 25 Nov 2012, by Luz Sly:
BEIRUT — Syrian rebels are making significant advances in their battle against government forces, raising new questions about President Bashar al-Assad’s ability to hold on to power and adding urgency to the quest by the international community for a unified and effective political opposition that could take control should his regime collapse.
In the past week, the rebels have seized five important military facilities in the north, the east and near the capital, Damascus, capturing sizable quantities of weaponry, further isolating remaining government positions and freeing opposition fighters to focus on attacking Assad’s forces.
...the gains underscore the steadily growing effectiveness of the rebel force and the accelerating erosion of what had once been one of the region’s most powerful armies, now severely depleted and on the defensive along almost all of the country’s many battle fronts.
The fighting is piecemeal, intense and likely to persist for many more months as regime troops and rebel fighters battle it out town by town and base by base across the vast swaths of the country that are being contested. But no longer is it possible to describe the war in Syria as a stalemate, said Jeffrey White, a defense fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, and the pace of rebel gains in recent weeks raises the prospect that a collapse of government forces could come sooner than has been expected.
“The war is turning against the regime, and it’s turning at a faster rate than we had seen before,” White said. “There’s a reasonable chance there will be some kind of breaking point, and the regime will collapse in a hurry...”...
...The advances are boosting confidence among rebel fighters that they will soon be able to topple Assad without the international assistance they have long sought. The Free Syrian Army is capable of retaking major cities but is refraining from doing so because that would invite the kind of devastating artillery fire and airstrikes that have caused heavy civilian casualties in many of the areas they have seized, said Free Syrian Army spokesman Louay Miqdad.
In what appears to have been one such act of retaliation, a warplane on Sunday dropped cluster bombs on a playground near the Marj al-Sultan air base overrun the night before, killing 10 children and injuring many more, activists in Damascus asserted. Videos posted online showed the bloodied bodies of several children and fragments of bomblets in a yard....
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