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Syrian Opposition Fires on Presidential Palace
November 7, 2012

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Syrian rebels have taken their fight to the corridors of power, with reports of mortars being fired at the presidential palace.

The attack was not successful, and the rebel forces soon dispersed, but the struggle for the streets and support of Damascus, the capital, goes on. And the fact that the opposition forces got near enough to the presidential palace to target it suggests that government forces are no longer in control of much of city.

Earlier this week, the brother of the Parliamentary speaker was killed, along with a prominent judge, both seen as close to the Alawite sect of President Bashar al-Assad. (The Syrian civil war is very much a struggle along the Shia-Sunni split among Islam, with the majority of the country belonging to the Sunni faith and the Alawites being an offshoot of the Shia faith.)

The Damascus attacks followed on from earlier struggles to assert control over the increasingly dangerous Damascus. Both sides have used all manner of attacks in the 20-month-long conflict. Just last week, after a cease-fire collapsed, Syrian air forces pounded 60 rebel positions across the country.

Meanwhile, Turkey, Syria's neighbor to the north, has asked NATO for support in the form of missiles. Relations between Syria and Turkey have worsened in recent weeks, as more and more Syrian refugees stream across the border into Turkey and more and more of the fighting takes place along the border. A few weeks ago, Turkey put its forces on high alert after Syrian mortars fell inside Turkish territory. Both countries have shut off their airspace from each other's planes. (In one high-profile incident, Turkey forced a Russian cargo plane to land and searched its cargo hold before allowing it to continue on to Damascus.)

Western powers have been reluctant to get involved, in part because the opposition to Assad has been fragmented. A group of opposition leaders meeting in Qatar is aiming to change that, with a high-profile meeting in Doha to craft a coherent overall political strategy and a change in leadership for the main overseas opposition, the Syrian National Council.

The death toll, according to human rights groups, now stands at 38,000.




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