Within the past week, the suppression of anti-government protesters and attacks by government forces on a rag tag bunch of army defectors and rebels has morphed into something that more constitutes a civil war. More effective and organized strikes by rebel forces in hot spots in northwestern Syria have now turned into attacks within the suburbs of the capital city of Damascus. The center of power for President Bashar al-Assad’s regime has remained mostly quiet for the bulk of this conflict, though that was violently upended Wednesday as a reported suicide bombing attack struck at the heart of the country’s government:
Defense Minister General Rajha and his deputy, Assef Shawkat, the brother-in-law of President Bashar al-Assad, were reportedly killed on Wednesday in the deadliest assault on government officials since the violence began 16 months ago.Also reported dead were Interior Minister Mohammed Ibrahim al-Shaar and General Hassan Turkmani, a former defence minister and currently Syria’s deputy vice president, who later died of his injuries.
There were additional injuries among other government officials who were at a gathering in Damascus’s National Security building. Two groups - Liwa al-Islam (The Brigade of Islam) and the Free Syrian Army – claimed responsibility for the attacks, though it is rather difficult to validate anyone’s claims on the ground. What can be verified is that the response from Mr. Assad’s side continues to be fierce: