WORLDPOST
07/18/2012 07:48 am ET | Updated Sep 17, 2012

Damascus Bombing: Attack Damages Assad's Inner Circle, But Not Decisive

BEIRUT, July 18 (Reuters) - A suicide bombing that killed and wounded members of Bashar al-Assad's inner circle on Wednesday will weaken the Syrian president's support base and might accelerate high-level defections, but does not signal his imminent downfall.

"This bombing is in some ways the most successful direct attack on the regime we've had so far," analyst Gala Riani said of the attack, apparently a suicide bombing by a bodyguard which killed the defence minister as well as Assad's brother-in-law, a former intelligence chief.

Coming on the fourth straight day of fighting in the capital Damascus, the bombing, claimed by the Free Syrian Army (FSA) and also by Islamist group Liwa al-Islam, intensifies pressure on Assad and may provoke a ferocious response.

"I think the next few days are going to be crucial in signalling where the conflict goes from here," said Riani, a Middle East analyst at the Control Risks consultancy.

"At the very least, we can expect the situation to continue to deteriorate. But I think it will take more than this to take the Assad regime down."

The brazen attack at a meeting of top security officials and ministers in the heart of Damascus will send a message to the top of the Syrian government that they are vulnerable.

"It sends a stark message that individual ministers are not safe and is likely to accelerate the erosion of the regime's support base," said Anthony Skinner, head of Middle East consultancy Maplecroft.

The bombing does not alter the fact that the rebels remain hugely outgunned by Assad's forces.

"These are very significant developments, but I believe the offensive will be repelled," Skinner said. "Psychologically, though, this will likely give the FSA a significant boost and may also precipitate more defections at a senior level." (Additional reporting by Peter Apps; Writing by Robin Pomeroy; Editing by Jon Boyle)

09/09/2012 12:25 PM EDT

Syria Blasts Aleppo By Air

09/05/2012 7:50 AM EDT

Syrian City In Flames

08/25/2012 1:45 PM EDT

Lebanese Pilgrim Freed

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Hussein Ali Omar, 60, one of 11 Lebanese Shiite pilgrims that Syrian rebels have been holding for three months in Syria, hugs his mother, right, upon arrival at his house in the southern suburb of Beirut, Lebanon, 2012. Syrian rebels freed Omar on Saturday in a move aimed at easing cross-border tensions after a wave of abductions of Syrian citizens in Lebanon. The Shiite pilgrims were abducted May 22 after crossing into Syria from Turkey on their way to Lebanon. (AP Photo/Hussein Malla)

08/24/2012 12:22 PM EDT

Daraya, Syria

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This image made from video and released by Shaam News Network and accessed Thursday, Aug. 23, 2012, purports to show the funeral of children in Daraya, near Damascus, Syria. Syrian troops backed by tanks and helicopters broke into a Damascus suburb on Thursday following two days of shelling and intense clashes as part of a widening offensive by President Bashar Assad's forces to seize control of parts of the capital and surrounding areas from rebel fighters, activists said. At least 15 people were killed in the offensive on Daraya, only a few miles (kilometers) southwest of Damascus. (AP Photo/Shaam News Network SNN via AP video)

08/24/2012 11:05 AM EDT

Lebanon Sees Heaviest Clashes In Months

Clashes between Assad supporters and opponents of the Syrian regime killed two people in Lebanon on Friday, the Associated Press reports. 17 people were injured.

The AP gives more context:

Syria was in virtual control of its smaller neighbor for many years, posting tens of thousands of troops in Lebanon, before withdrawing under pressure in 2005. Even without soldiers on the ground, Syria remains influential, and its civil war has stirred longstanding tensions that have lain under Lebanon's surface.

Read more on HuffPost World.

08/24/2012 11:02 AM EDT

Tripoli, Lebanon

lebanon

A Sunni gunman fires a gun during clashes that erupted between pro and anti-Syrian regime gunmen in the northern port city of Tripoli, Lebanon, Friday, Aug. 24, 2012. The latest round of fighting first erupted on Monday in northern Lebanon and at least 15 have been killed in Tripoli this week and more than 100 have been wounded in fighting that is a spillover from Syria's civil war. (AP Photo/Hussein Malla)

08/24/2012 11:00 AM EDT

Refugee Numbers Soar

@ KenRoth :

UN reports 200,000 #Syria refugees, 30,000 in past week alone. Many more internally displaced not counted. http://t.co/BaM6u59j

08/23/2012 2:00 PM EDT

Azaz, Syria

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Syrian boy Musataf Alhafiz, 11, who fled his home with his family due to fighting between the Syrian army and the rebels, carries his brother Saif, 9 months, while he and others take refuge at the Bab Al-Salameh border crossing, in hopes of entering one of the refugee camps in Turkey, near the Syrian town of Azaz, Thursday, Aug. 23, 2012. Thousands of Syrians who have been displaced by the country's civil war are struggling to find safe shelter while shelling and airstrikes by government forces continue. (AP Photo/Muhammed Muheisen)

08/23/2012 12:09 PM EDT

Heaviest Bombardment This Month

Helicopter gunships shelled Damascus on Wednesday as Syrian security forces intensified their assault on the capital. Activists report that at least 47 people were killed.

"The whole of Damascus is shaking with the sound of shelling," a woman in the neighborhood of Kfar Souseh told Reuters.

Read more on HuffPost World.

08/23/2012 10:56 AM EDT

Al Aan-Reporter Jenan Moussa Tweets:

@ jenanmoussa :

Graphic. We saw in a mosque in #Syria these 4 children staring at dead body. Pic by @HaraldDoornbos: http://t.co/lgq8IAmO #warsucks @akhbar