Syria Hardens Response to Clashes in Damascus

BEIRUT, Lebanon — Antigovernment activists on Tuesday reported a third day of street battles in the Syrian capital of Damascus as rebels fought Syrian Army forces in several restive neighborhoods near the edge of the old city….

There were indications on Tuesday that the rebel fighters, confident of support in some areas of Damascus, were moving into new neighborhoods to test the government’s response….

“Regime forces are threatening to bombard the whole area and telling civilians to evacuate their houses….”

A rebel military commander interviewed in Midan said that enough anti-Assad fighters had penetrated the capital to begin examining just how strongly the government would fight there.

“We know that the key battle is in the capital, in Damascus,” said the 30-year-old commander, carrying an AK-47 assault rifle. “We are preparing for the big battle in Damascus, but it hasn’t started yet. What is going is just to test the power of the regime, its forces.”

The goal is to draw closer and closer to the center of the city, having already fought in the suburbs, he said. The commander said he wanted Mr. Assad to be able to hear the fighting from the hilltop presidential palace. “Bashar is not secure in his palace,” he said.


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