Syrian army defectors have launched an attack on a major intelligence complex in Damascus, where loyalist mobs attacked the embassies of friendly Arab nations several times in the past week after the Arab League voted to suspend Syria's membership. The decision came after President Bashar al-Assad refused to fulfill an agreement he signed with the regional body to end the violence against civilian protesters.
At least 20 security police officers were killed and/or wounded, according to eyewitnesses who spoke Thursday with a Reuters reporter.
The attack, which took place Wednesday, prompted a counterattack by government forces on Harasta, the Damascus suburb in which the Air Force facility was located, local sources said. It was the first launched by opposition forces on a major security target.
“The defectors used rocket-propelled grenades and machine guns, and managed to inflict casualties on those who were within... the outer wall,” said an operative involved in supplying the defectors, Reuters reported.
However, it has been impossible to confirm most of the information gleaned from such sources, due to the restrictions imposed on journalists by the regime of President Bashar al-Assad.
The United Nations has estimated that in the past nine months, the government crackdown on civilian protests has left more than 3,500 people dead. Activists and human rights organizers place the death toll far higher, however, estimating that more than 4,500 people have been killed since the uprising against the Assad regime began in March.
At least 300 people have been killed in the rapidly-developing civil war since the beginning of this month alone, leading the United Nations to consider Thursday a resolution condemning the Assad regime.