Syrian rebels will intensify attacks inside the capital Damascus and target sensitive security installations in what they call an operation to “liberate Damascus,” a rebel commander told Reuters on Tuesday.
Colonel Qassem Saadeddine, spokesman of the joint command of the Free Syrian Army inside Syria, told Reuters that many fighters arrived in Damascus from several provinces 10 days ago to take part in the operation and more would be sent soon.
“There is no going back. The Damascus battle has priority for us. We have started the operation to liberate Damascus,” Saadeddine said, adding the rebels had called their operation “Damascus volcano and Syrian earthquake.”
Rebels and government troops have clashed in the streets of Damascus for three days, in the fiercest fighting in the capital since the revolt against President Bashar al-Assad erupted last year.
“This has been planned for some time now. We sent many groups and fighters to Damascus and its suburbs 10 days ago. We have sent at least 50 groups, each with around 50 fighters,” Saadeddine emphasized.
He added, “We will hit security buildings. There is major coordination between all military councils regarding this. We will not stop, there is no return.”
The Israeli army intelligence chief said on Tuesday that Assad has pulled troops from the Israeli border to defend Damascus against rebels.
“The Syrian military is acting very brutally, which shows the regime is desperate. Its control of Damascus is getting weaker,” Major-General Aviv Kochavi told a parliamentary committee.
“Assad has moved many of his forces that were in the Golan Heights to the conflict areas," Kochavi said. “He's not afraid of Israel at this point, but primarily wants to bolster his forces around Damascus.”
Nawaf Fares, the first Syrian ambassador to defect since the uprising against Assad began, told the BBC on Monday that Assad will not hesitate to use chemical weapons against opposition forces.
Fares, a former ambassador to Iraq, insisted that Assad’s days are numbered but warned that the president would be prepared "to eradicate the entire Syrian people" in order to remain in power.
"I am convinced that if Bashar al-Assad's regime is further cornered by the people -- he would use such weapons," Fares said.
Meanwhile, the United Nations Security Council is set to vote Wednesday on a Western-backed resolution that threatens Syrian authorities with sanctions if they do not stop using heavy weapons in towns.
The resolution, proposed by Britain, the United States, France and Germany, would extend a UN observer mission in Syria for 45 days and place international envoy Kofi Annan's peace plan under Chapter 7 of the UN Charter.
Chapter 7 allows the 15-member council to authorize actions ranging from diplomatic and economic sanctions to military intervention. U.S. officials have said they are talking about sanctions on Syria, not military intervention.