Syrian rebels have mounted an unprecedented attack in Damascus, assaulting an installation of Assad’s elite Republican Guards. Most of the fighting over the course of the conflict has occurred far from Syria’s capital, with this attack representing another escalation of the conflict — and it was met with a furious response: The Syrian Army shelled two Damascus suburban neighborhoods, including one just three miles from the president’s residence, killing at least 33 people.
The United Nations has also released a new report acknowledging that the violence is at or above the level it was before the April Annan-plan ceasefire, as Time explains:
The U.N.’s deputy envoy for Syria, Jean-Marie Guehenno, told the U.N. Human Rights Council that the violence in Syria has “reached or even surpassed” levels seen before the April 12 ceasefire agreement and that a six-point peace plan forged by his boss, U.N.-Arab League envoy Kofi Annan, “is clearly not being implemented.” Meanwhile, a U.N. probe into the massacre in the central Syrian village of Houla concluded that forces loyal to the government “may have been responsible” for many of the deaths.
The report by U.N.-appointed human rights experts says the military or pro-government shabiha forces had better access to the Houla village during the May massacre. The village leans toward opposition support and most of the victims were women and children who were slaughtered in their homes, it said.
Meanwhile, a report from a Russian think tank, CAST, claims that Russia is in the process of delivering, this year, half-a-billion dollars worth of weaponry to equip Assad’s regime, including repaired Mi-25 Hind attack helicopters. Russia’s defense minister has not denied the reports, but argues that they are in fulfillment of existing contracts, which also provide, most worryingly, for more air-defense systems and a dozen MiG-29 fighter jets. This might pose problems for setting up a no-fly zone, the initial move in NATO’s Libya operation. Reuters spoke to one of the authors of the report, who explained that “Syria’s air defense systems are better than Libya’s. On the one hand, Syria has tough, solid air defence systems of many different kinds, but what condition they are in and whether Syria is properly trained to use them is a different question . . . the only real way of knowing what shape it’s in is to test it.”