- Syrian rebels battled President Bashar Assad's forces near the main intelligence base in the northern city of Aleppo on Sunday as helicopter gunships bombarded several districts ofDamascus in an effort to drive out insurgents, witnesses said."Sounds of explosions from different areas are shaking the whole city. A heavyexchange of gunfire has been going on near the State Security Headquarters in al-Mouhafaza (district) since the morning," a housewife there told Reuters by telephone.In the capital Damascus, Assad's forces appeared to be clawing back territory taken by insurgents earlier in the week, driving them out of the Mezze district, according to residents and opposition activists.Elite Fourth Division troops were besieging the northern Damascus neighborhood of Barzeh and the sound of tank fire was heard in the district, they said. Helicopter gunships firedmachine guns at the nearby district of Rukn al-Din and Qaboun.
Bashar Assad quickly recovered from the blow he suffered with the loss of his four top allies last Wednesday, July 18. Within 24 hours, he had put in place a new command for fighting the rebels headed by his younger brother Gen. Maher Assad, commander of the 4th Division,Despite a wave of desertions, the Syrian army was soon back on the job, showing no signs of shock or wavering at the command level.Within 48 hours the army had driven the rebels out of the Maidan district of Damascus. And while some media focused on the rebels’ capture of two Syrian-Iraqi crossings Saturday, our sources report that Assad and his new command had already moved on and were busy with a tactical move in retaliation against Turkey for the assassinations at the top of Assad’s inner circle: They opened the door to an influx of rebels of the Turkish PKK (Kurdistan Workers Party) from Iraq into Syria’s northern Kurdish regions, with permission to set up bases of operation along the Turkish border.By giving the armed Turkish Kurds' separatist movement bases of attack against Ankara, the Assad regime was able to pacify Syria’s own 2-3 million-strong Kurdish minority (ten percent of the population) and make sure their towns in the north did not join the Syrian uprising.By guaranteeing his own Kurdish minority’s loyalty, Assad released the troops posted there to fight Syrian rebels on other fronts.While acting as hosts for the rebel Free Syrian Army commands which are campaigning against Damascus, Turkey is itself exposed to a new strategic threat from its southern border with Syria.The PKK were quick on the draw: Friday, they blew up the Kirkuk-Ceyhan pipeline carrying about a quarter of Iraq’s oil exports at the southeastern Turkish town of Midyat near the Syrian border.
Assad has therefore begun exacting revenge on Turkey for the assassinations which cut down his inner circle.