Hundreds flee clashes shaking Syrian capital
Syrian troops fight against rebels in the Al-Midan area of Damascus on July 18. AFP PhotoA day after an explosion killed members of the Syrian president’s close circle of advisors, clashes and shelling continued in Damascus causing hundreds of its residents to flee yesterday as the military gave them two days to get out, a rights watchdog reported.
The military said residents have 48 hours to leave areas where clashes are taking place between security forces and rebels, a security source told Agence France-Presse. “These extremely violent clashes should continue in the next 48 hours to cleanse Damascus of terrorists by the time Ramadan begins,” the source said, referring to the Muslim holy fasting month. The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights watchdog said “hundreds of people” fled several areas. In the western district of Mazzeh, hundreds were on the move, “fearing a large-scale operation by regime troops,” the Observatory said. Residents also fled the southern district of Tadamon and the Palestinian refugee camp of Yarmuk for an unknown destination, it added. The latest developments come a day after a bombing in Damascus killed three top officials, including the defense minister and President Bashar al-Assad’s brother-in-law, in a severe blow to the very heart of the regime. “The army has so far exercised restraint in its operations, but after the attack, it has decided to use all the weapons in its possession to finish the terrorists off,” the security source said.
The source also said “the army has told residents to stay away from combat zones, as the terrorists are trying to use residents as human shields.” Yesterday, 48 people were killed in violence across Syria, the Observatory said, including 26 civilians, six rebel fighters and 16 soldiers. On July 18, at least 214 people were killed, the watchdog added, bringing the 48-hours death toll to more than 250 as fierce violence engulfed the capital.