An explosion rocked the Syrian capital city of Damascus on Sunday, according to activists on Twitter and the Al-Arabiya newspaper. A Free Syrian Army Brigade member claimed the explosion targeted Syrian army headquarters.
Whilst reports are still surfacing on the explosion, the attack is most likely the work of dissidents who have defected from Al-Assad’s forces, as the area reportedly hit is also under heavy security due to the importance of the military facilities in the city.
According to an Al-Arabiya correspondent, the Syrian air force breached Iraqi airspace on Sunday and bombed several rebel positions along the border in retaliation to an attack carried out earlier by the Free Syrian Army on an army base in the eastern border city of Abu Kamal.
Syrian opposition fighters on Saturday appear to have secured an air defence installation in Syria’s eastern governorate of Deir El-Zour, a sign of an increasingly well-coordinated opposition to the government of Bashar Al-Assad.
The New York Times reported at least 16 soldiers were taken captive whilst opposition fighters also seized much needed anti-air weaponry and ammunition.
According to activist groups, fighters also attacked a military airbase in the same province, culminating in the third attack on an air force site in the last week. Al-Assad’s armed forces have taken to the skies, using fighter jets and attack helicopters to combat the prolific Free Syrian Army and other associated rebel groups.
The rebels do not have access to advanced weaponry, and the use of Al-Assad’s aerial dominance has been one of the biggest concerns for civilians and rebels alike, who have witnessed intense bombings of neighbourhoods in cities such as Aleppo and Damascus.
Videos released by activists in Syria on Saturday supposedly show rebels in control of the base. The New York Times speculates that the fighters may have gotten hold of shoulder-mounted surface-to-air missiles such as rocket-propelled grenade launchers, but asserts it is unclear as to whether or not the fighters have all the necessary components to make them functional.
The claims from Syrian fighters that they have managed to shoot down two helicopters over the past week are indicative that they are acquiring operational anti-aircraft weaponry, but it cannot be confirmed from where.
The new Syrian special envoy for the UN and the Arab League, Lakhdar Brahimi, plans to visit Damascus in the coming days, saying that he would base himself in Damascus if it would help the situation.“Damascus is the right, natural place to be,” Mr.Brahimi said during an interview at the UN. “Whether it will be possible or not is something I’m going to find out.”
According to Syria’s state news agency SANA, a car bomb near a Palestinian refugee camp in the Al-Sbeineh district of Damascus late Saturday killed at least 15 people, wounding several more and causing damage to the surrounding infrastructure. SANA pins the blame on an “armed terrorist group” but ran no follow-up on Sunday.