Syrian Weekly Brief: 4 – 10 February 2013

Top Stories
Fighting intensifies in Damascus: Rebel fighters launched an all-out offensive they called “The Grand Epic” in a bid to seize control of the capital Damascus, the seat of Assad’s power. Fighting intensified in the eastern part of the capital where the rebels seized control of several military checkpoints mainly near the district of Jobar, few hundred meters away from the strategic square of Abbasids in the heart of Damascus.
Pressure mounts on Assad: Opposition leader Moaz al-Khatib urged Bashar al-Assad's government on Monday to start talks for its departure from power. Syria’s opposition coalition is opening offices in Washington and New York as part of a drive to take the country’s UN seat from Bashar Al Assad’s government.
Regime continues its scorched earth policy: Regime forces perpetrated a number of massacres that claimed the lives of dozens of unarmed civilians including women and children mainly in the suburbs of Damascus and Aleppo. According to SRCC’s statistics, the continued violence in Syria claimed the lives of more than 66,595 so far. Doctors in Aleppo said that children are being killed and injured in greater numbers than rebel fighters.
Uprising Developments
Rebels gain victories in northern Syria: The rebels seized control of the town of Tabaqa in the western suburb of Raqa city and seized parts of the Menneg airbase in the suburb of Aleppo while continued to besiege and bombard airbases in the same area.
Refugee crisis worsens: Syria’s conflict is now driving 5,000 people out of the country each day in an increasingly desperate scramble for safety, the UNHRC said Friday. The UN on Wednesday stated that the number of people fleeing the fighting in Syria could reach 1.1 million by June. According to the UN’s latest statistics, the total number of registered refugees and individuals awaiting registration is 792,118 as of 7 February. MSF said that over 50% of SyriaN refugees in Lebanon lack medical care.
Iran and Hezbollah’s support to Assad continues: On Sunday, The Washington Post said that Iran and Hezbollah, its Lebanese proxy, are building a network of militias inside Syria to preserve and protect their interests in the event that Bashar al-Assad falls. SRCC reported clashes on Friday between the Syrian rebels and Hezbollah fighters following an attack by Hezbollah on a Syrian village in the suburb of Homs.
Power Utility losses billions of pounds: The state entity in charge of the country’s electricity distribution network said that it accumulated losses of at least SYP 15 billion since the beginning of the uprising in the country two years ago.
Syrian pound continues to lose value: The US dollar hit unprecedented heights against the Syrian pound according to the Central Bank of Syria (CBS) bulletin of foreign currency exchange rate.
International Reactions
US unlikely to shift position on Syria:
The United States is weighing up what steps to take next to try to end the conflict in Syria, new Secretary of State John Kerry said Friday. However, the Washington Post said that a shift in President Obama’s stance is unlikely.

Israel boosts its defences along northern borders: The likely downfall of Bashar al-Assad could open new and dangerous fronts for its southern neighbour Israel, experts say. Iran told Israel on Monday it would regret its air strike against Syria last week. Israel has deployed a third Iron Dome missile defence system near its northern borders with Syria and Lebanon.  
Islamic summit backs Syria dialogue: Leaders at an Islamic summit on Thursday urged a dialogue between the Syrian opposition and regime.
Syrian Press Focus
No clashes in Damascus: The Syrian media rejected media reports of rebels advancing into the capital as “categorically baseless”.
War with al-Qaeda: The Syrian media covered comments by Minister of information Omran al-Zoubi saying that Syria is fighting terrorist groups linked to al-Qaeda and supported directly by Qatar, the Turkish government and many other countries that have agendas in the region.

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