TribLIVE

| USWorld

 
Larger text Larger text Smaller text Smaller text | Order Photo Reprints

Damascus in grip of tense stalemate

Email Newsletters

Click here to sign up for one of our email newsletters.

Daily Photo Galleries

By The Los Angeles Times
Saturday, March 2, 2013, 7:12 p.m.
 

Iran and Syria condemned a U.S. plan to assist rebels fighting to topple President Bashar Assad on Saturday and signaled the Syrian leader intends to stay in power at least until 2014 presidential elections.

The remarks occurred as rebel forces have dug in to the north, east and south of Syria's capital, occupying stretches of suburban and rural terrain and threatening to break through to the heart of Damascus.

Government troops have largely pulled back to a well-defended core, including the city center and loyal bastions to the west.

After nearly two years of fighting in Syria that has mostly spared the capital, an uneasy stalemate reigns in Damascus. In recent days, the city has experienced mortar attacks and car bombings, while the military has responded in its usual fashion: withering bombardment of outlying rebel strongholds.

A huge explosion rocked the city last week, apparently a car bomb targeting a checkpoint in heavily defended Abaseen Square, a potential route into the city for rebels.

“I don't go anywhere unless I have specific business,” said a woman in her early 50s who requested anonymity for safety's sake. “No one does.”

The opposition presses foreign allies for support that could help break the impasse. On Thursday, Secretary of State John F. Kerry pledged $60 million in additional nonlethal aid during meetings with opposition figures in Rome, though he turned aside their plea for weapons.

Much of Assad's military is focused on defending a strategic zone that that includes the presidential palace, government buildings and military bases, drawing up a kind of cordon sanitaire around the capital. Damascus is crucial to both sides in the conflict, but it is only one of many battlegrounds.

Analysts say the government is determined to maintain a corridor from the capital along the highway north to Homs and to the Alawite heartland on the Mediterranean coast, long mentioned as a haven for Assad and his allies should the government collapse.

Subscribe today! Click here for our subscription offers.

 

 


Show commenting policy

Most-Read World

  1. 200 feared dead in latest migrant disaster off Libya’s coast
  2. Tropical storm Erika bears down on Caribbean
  3. Suicide bomber kills wife, 2 kids in Pakistan police raid
  4. Hackers in China suspected in attack on Indian government, academia
  5. Al-Qaida reportedly seizes control of key areas in and around Yemen’s port city of Aden
  6. Islamic State kills Iraqi soldiers in 2 ambushes in Anbar province
  7. Police: Ashley Madison cheat site hack tied to crimes
  8. Hezbollah support deepens trash crisis in Lebanon
  9. Refugees race to Hungary as fence goes up
  10. Lion kills safari guide in park where Cecil lived
  11. Plot, links to Islam supported in Amsterdam-to-Paris train shooting