The rebels are launching mortar fire all the way from the suburbs of Damascus to the Alawite neighbourhoods inside the city. As for the street battles, they’re taking place at the entrances to the city – even on highway on-ramps. These firefights can last for two to three hours, and then it’s calm for a while before starting anew. Thursday morning, for example, the highway leading toward Jordan was blocked due to the battles.
The mortar fire mostly targets the districts of Mazzeh and Kafr Sousseh. The neighbourhood of Mazzeh 86, located near the presidential palace, is on lockdown. This area is not only home to Alawites, it is home to members of the security forces and their families. So it’s usually very well protected. The capital’s residents really started to panic when they realized that even this neighbourhood was no longer safe.
Families living in Mazzeh 86 have begun to flee the city and head to coastal towns like Tartus, and the suburbs of Latakia [this part of Syria’s northeast is home to many Alawites, including the president’s family]. Their exit was not discreet, since they travelled in groups, in big buses dispatched by the authorities. Normally, these buses are only used during important ceremonies, like national holidays.
Everyone in the city is panicked; people are stocking up on food and other basic supplies out of fear that the situation might worsen in the coming days. They can’t drive much because of all the new roadblocks all over the city. During rush hour, it’s become very hard for people to get to work. For example, I live in the suburb of Jormanah and work in downtown Damascus. Usually, it takes me 45 minutes to get to my workplace. Now, it takes me two and a half hours.
The rebel fighters are now close enough to the capital to not only strike the Alawite neighbourhoods, but also to disrupt daily life throughout the capital, and that’s new. They’re now threatening to take their fight to the streets in the very heart of the capital.