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      Dozens Killed in Machine-Gun Battles in Streets of Damascus

      The raging anti-Assad rebellion has reached Damascus, where rebels and Assad’s forces are locked in battle. Dozens are dead.
      By Tzvi Ben Gedalyahu
      First Publish: 3/19/2012, 9:15 AM

      Syrian officials at blast site in Damascus
      Syrian officials at blast site in Damascus
      Reuters

      The raging one-year rebellion against Syrian President Bashar Assad reached the streets of the capital of Damascus Monday morning, and rebels and Assad’s forces are locked in battle. More than 100 have been killed, including dozens of soldiers loyal to Assad.

      Assad’s heavily-armed forces are for more powerful than the rebels, who have been able to obtain weapons and tanks from army defectors and from smuggling routes.  

      Damascus is Assad’s biggest stronghold, and the capital is home to tens of thousands of people who work for his regime. Failure to quell protests there could be the beginning of the end of his rule.

      Loyalists to Assad beat and arrested dozens of mourners on Sunday during funerals for victims of the two car bombings that ripped through the capital on Saturday.

      Rebels claimed that Assad’s secret police and army staged the car bombings to frame the opposition in advance of a scheduled visit to Syria this week by United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon. The regime has accused the rebels and Al Qaeda terrorists for the bombings, which killed at least 27 people and wounded more than 140 others near government intelligence buildings.

      The rebels’ biggest assets in their battle against Assad’s regime are the huge number of opponents to the brutal suppression, which started out a year ago with small demonstrations for political reforms, and the growing anger of the majority Sunni Muslim population against the Alawite regime. Thousands of civilians have been gunned down, shelled and starved to death since the Arab Spring uprising began in March 2011.

      The international community ignored the brutality for months, led by Western leaders such as U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton who spoke of Assad as a “reformer” weeks after the demonstrations began.

      Thousands have been killed and tens of thousands have been wounded as the West refrains from giving military aid to the rebels, who have failed to rally around a single leader or group, a key to the success of rebels in Yemen, Egypt and Libya.