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Syrian Civil War: Damascus Besieged

May 13, 2013

Israeli airstrike

Friday. The night of April 3. Unidentified aircraft launch standoff munitions from within Israel’s airspace. The precision strikes target the outskirts of Damascus.

The same was repeated on Sunday, April 5. Large explosions illuminated the surrounding hills of the ancient city and bastion for Bashar al-Assad’s embattled regime. The trickle of eye witness footage and claims, among them from the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, reveal powerful blasts shook residential neighborhoods.

It was later confirmed the airstrikes killed scores of Syrian soldiers.

According to media coverage that immediately surfaced, both operations—executed within the span of a weekend—were preemptive strikes meant to destroy alleged weapons deliveries for Hezbollah’s bases in southern Lebanon. To mitigate any chance of reprisal, two Iron Dome batteries were set up along the Israeli-controlled Golan Heights.

The reason for the air strikes was concern over Hezbollah deploying Iranian-made Fateh-110 missiles, allowing them to target the length and breadth of the Jewish state. Developed by Iran more than a decade ago, the Fateh-110 is a road-mobile system with a 1,000 lbs payload. Reliable online sources indicate the nine meter long solid-propellant missile has an effective range of 210 km.

In the aftermath of the strikes it was confirmed by the Institute for the Study of War that the targets were a “science research” center in Zamraya, an outlying village near Damascus, and Syrian Republican Guard bases, particularly facilities used by the 4th Division and the 104th Brigade.

Israel’s actions drew criticism from Syria, Iran, and Turkey, the last of whom normalized its relationship with the Jewish state this year after a prolonged diplomatic freeze. Despite the official outrage from its neighbors, the air strikes haven’t altered the balance of the civil war gripping Syria, which has entered a tense stalemate between loosely knit rebel factions and Assad’s teetering military.

As Syria’s tragedy drags on, its ties with its neighbors—all of whom have a stake in the ongoing violence—have frayed beyond repair. Within the fractured nation  combat between the remnants of Assad’s forces and the Free Syrian Army (FSA), whose supposed leadership collapsed in late March over conflicting differences, is waged over petty local objectives. The slow-motion drama carries on amid alarming claims from US, Israeli, and NATO officials of alleged chemical weapons use alongside louder calls for indirect aid to the rebels.

A week since the devastating Israeli assault the Turkish border town of Reyhanli was shaken by two car bomb blasts that killed dozens, the latest cross-border incident between the neighboring countries.