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CAPTURED ON VIDEO. Car bombs engulf army headquarters in Damascus

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)
September 27th, 2012
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

Two car bombs that engulfed army headquarters in Damascus have killed at least five people. While the 18-month Syrian uprising has left thousands dead and currently appears locked in a stalemate, the attack upon the fortress-like structure points our President Bashar al-Assad's increasingly fragile grasp on his nation.

LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - Among those killed were a reporter for Iranian TV.  The two explosions went off about 10 minutes apart; the first blast possibly intended to create a diversion to allow the second attacker to get into the compound.

Security camera footage aired by Syrian state TV showed a white van driving on a busy street outside the military compound, then veering to the right and exploding. Footage of the second blast shows the explosion going off inside the complex, with flames rising behind trees.

Rebel fighters and regime forces exchanged fire for more than three hours. The fighting spilled over into nearby Omayyad Square, with regime troops chasing after rebel gunmen.

Four army guards were killed and 14 people were wounded, including civilians and military personnel, state TV reported.

The incident has raised tensions in the nearby Malki area, an upscale district that has largely escaped the violence engulfing Damascus' suburbs. "It is obvious that there are no more safe areas in Syria," one resident spoke on the condition of anonymity. "We are all under fire."

Iranian journalist, 33-year-old Maya Nasser, has been confirmed killed by a rebel sniper following the blast. The station replayed Nasser's last report, in which he was on the phone from Damascus during a live broadcast, when the line suddenly went silent. The regime has been accused of underreporting casualties in an attempt to play down the severity of the attacks.

Rebels have targeted the center of Damascus with bomb attacks in the past. The most dramatic one occurred in July when they detonated explosives inside a high-level crisis meeting in Damascus that killed four top regime officials, including Assad's brother-in-law and the defense minister.

Previous predictions that these attacks could accelerate the regime's demise have proven premature, and both sides have dug in.

Fighting between government forces and rebels have accelerated over the summer, and the Observatory said the death toll has broken the 30,000 mark, with nearly two-thirds of the casualties reported in the past six months.

While potentially demoralizing for the Assad regime, the latest attack is unlikely to shift the momentum in the rebels' favor, analysts said.

"The rebels are able to penetrate here and there and catch the regime off guard," Paul Salem of the Carnegie Middle East Center, a Beirut-based think tank says. "It's an important event, but does not change ... the balance of power, which is right now in a deadly stalemate."

In related news, Egypt's new President Mohammed Morsi in his first address to the United nations said he will not rest until Syria's civil war is brought to an end. He called it the "tragedy of the age" and one that "we all must end."

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