After declaring an all-out offensive on government troops, Free Syrian Army militants are fighting to destabilize the capital Damascus. RT’s Maria Finoshina reports that sporadic gunfire and blasts could be heard close to the city center.
Despite official reports that the Syrian capital was fully cleared from armed militants on Tuesday morning, the gunfire in Damascus continues.
RT’s correspondent Maria Finoshina reports the intensity of fighting inside Damascus is nowhere near the level she experienced during last weeks assault on Douma, some 14 km from the capital, where she remembers her hotel windows shaking from the fierce exchanges.
Though occasional shooting in Damascus continues and armed soldiers are patrolling the streets, “it doesn’t seem like final or decisive battle for capital, really,” Finoshina reports.
A deputy Damascus police chief was also reportedly killed in the clashes.
Finoshina’s source in the Syrian army has revealed that the army’s tactic is to surround rebel hotbeds while leaving them a ‘corridor’ to flee. The plan is to direct them into less populated areas where they can be dealt with without restraint.
Finoshina also twitted that by noon, shootings were heard in Mezrah area of Damascus, very close to the city center and not far from the Russian embassy. The ruling Baath party building has reportedly been targeted in the Mezrah area. Police, however, have yet to block the roads and the city remains under the control of government security forces.
Residents in the Midan area of southern Damascus asked the operation’s commander to establish a corridor through which “the terrorists” could leave. He refused, saying “We gave them time to surrender – they refused. We are not here to negotiate.”
Finoshina has also reported military helicopters are patrolling the skies over Damascus.
On Monday the Free Syrian Army announced a final “battle for Damascus”. By Monday evening the Nahreshe and Al Qadam neighborhoods in Southern Damascus were reportedly hotbeds for intense gunfire exchanges. Finoshina reported that because of the fierce clashes, the roads leading to these areas were closed. Later it became known that clashes were underway in four densely populated areas of Southern Damascus. No reports on casualties have been made so far.
Similar tactics were used last year by the rebels in the Libyan capital Tripoli. Despite fully being controlled by Muammar Gaddafi’s forces, militants infiltrated the city with their arms and one day, after receiving a signal, launched a simultaneous armed attack, killing police officers and army servicemen.
A source close to the Syrian government informed Finoshina that the militants appeared in the Palestinian refugee camps in order to destabilize them but did not find support among the camps’ residents. Palestinians reportedly said that their camps are safe and sound “green zones.” Being guests in Syria, the refugees said they would prefer to stay away from the conflict.