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Fighting in Damascus 'looks like civil war' says Russian official

By JohnThomas Didymus     Nov 17, 2011 in World
Damascus - Opposition groups and activists report that a day after the Free Syrian Army attacked the Air Intelligence base in the outskirts of the city of Damascus, fighting has broken out in the city early on Thursday.
According to a CNN report, explosions and gunfire rocked the city early on Thursday.
The latest report of fighting in Damascus comes as world leaders mount increased pressure on President Bashar al-Assad to cease military crackdown on civilian protesters. According to UN estimates, 3,500 people have died in the Syrian government's violent suppression of protests. CNN reports the Free Syrian Army says it attacked the Air intelligence base in Harasta with "powerful explosions inside and around the compound that shook its foundations."
The latest report says the Free Syrian Army has launched attacks on government buildings in Damascus. According to Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, speaking early on Thursday, the outbreak of fighting in Damascus "looks like a civil war." The Russian Foreign Minister said, "Violence in Syria must stop, whatever its origin."
The Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, has indicted U.S. led NATO for not intervening in Syria. CNN reports that the Anatolian Agency quotes Erdogan saying:
"I want you to know that the people losing their lives in Syria are just as human as those who lost their lives in Libya. That those who had the appetite for Libya remain silent and without reaction in the face of the slaughters in Syria opens wounds hard to repair in human conscience."
CNN report says the Free Syrian Army has attacked the Revolutionary Youth Association office in the Idlib province town of Maaret Al Nu'man. Government forces, in the latest fighting, have killed 12 people across the country. Among those killed include four military defectors and eight civilians. One of them, according to CNN report, was a child. CNN says, however, it has not been able to independently verify claims of casualties in the latest fighting.
While details of targets of the latest attacks are not yet clear, close observers of the recent trend of events in Syria say the attack on the Air Intelligence building by the Free Syrian Army, believed to be 15,000 strong, may signal resolve to mount full-scale military offensive on the government of President Bashar al-Assad. The Air Intelligence unit has been deeply involved in the eight-month bloody repression of anti-government protests in Syria.
Free Syrian Army says it is launching the attacks to prevent future goverment attacks on civilians.
Reports say the ranks of the Free Syrian Army has been growing rapidly in recent weeks. An expert in Syrian affairs at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy Andrew Tabler, was quoted as saying that the latest strikes by the Free Syrian Army "opens up a new era of the conflict." Tabler said the new development represents "a bad direction" for Syria.
Meanwhile, opposition groups in Syria are urging the UN to impose a no-fly zone to protect civilians. Leaders of the Free Syrian Army say a no-fly zone will help them establish a base of operations to launch campaign against al-Assad's regime.
The Arab League, in its Rabat meeting, on Wednesday, gave the Syrian government three days to implement a protocol allowing observers to enter Syria and monitor events. The league also called on member states to withdraw their ambassadors.
Russia has expressed its support for observers in Syria. The Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, said:
"...the Syrian leadership said....it was willing to receive observers from the League of Arab States and guarantees their presence in any part of the country and in any community, so they could see what is going on with their own eyes. We also deem important the start of negotiations between all parties in Syria on a peaceful settlement in Syria as soon as possible, and we believe that the most optimal place for such negotiations would be the Arab League headquarters in Cairo."
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