Both Sides Raise Stakes in Syrian Civil War
Military forces on both sides of the Syrian civil war are slowly ratcheting up the pressure as the stakes are growing tighter in the race to control the country.
Syrian warplanes rained missile fire on the northern and eastern regions of the country Tuesday as combat raged in the capital, Damascus and its surrounding suburbs. At least five civilians were killed in the air strikes, according to opposition activists, but more than 90 people died across the country, the UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported.
Two car bombs went off Wednesday morning in a neighborhood in eastern Damascus, in Syria, local human rights groups report.
The bombs wounded many people and caused extensive damage. Syrian government officials released a preliminary death toll following the bombings, which took place in a predominantly Christian neighborhood. At least 34 people were killed in the attack.
Rebel forces allegedly shot down a military helicopter, posting video footage of the missile attack on the YouTube Internet website by the Free Syrian Army 30 km (20 miles) northwest of Aleppo.
But it is not clear who is controlling the city at this point.
A little over a week ago, a coalition of 13 Muslim extremist organizations declared the northern commercial hub to be an independent Islamist state. They also seceded from the general rebel forces, saying the Western-backed opposition Syrian National Council was “foreign-controlled.” Those involved in the Islamist coalition are linked to Salafi and Al Qaeda-type terrorist organizations.
According to security sources cited by human rights activists, a growing number of heat-seeking anti-aircraft missiles have been making their way into the hands of the rebels. All kinds of weapons are beginning to flow into the country, in fact, with some even being transported by rebels on the backs of donkeys through border crossings around the province of Idlib.
The video documenting the attack on the Syrian Army helicopter, if authentic, proves such ordnance is now being supplied to the rebels. The question is, where is it going and who is receiving which arms?
More than 40,000 Syrians have died so far in the 20-month-old revolution, and hundreds of thousands have fled the country for Jordan, Turkey, Iraq and Lebanon. Entire cities have been turned into rubble and an estimated four million Syrians will have been internally displaced by the end of 2012.