Syrian general gunned down in Damascus
The state news agency reports the high-ranking officer was killed by gunmen as he left his home, a sign that violence is reaching the Syrian capital.
Gunmen assassinated an army general in Damascus on Saturday in the first killing of a high ranking military officer in the Syrian capital since the uprising against President Bashar Assad's regime began in March, the state-run news agency said.Skip to next paragraph
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The attack is a sign that violence in Syria is reaching the tightly controlled capital, which has been relatively quiet compared to other cities. Though there was no immediate claim of responsibility, it could also indicate that rebel soldiers who have risen up in numerous cities and towns are trying to step up action in Damascus.
SANA news agency said three gunmen opened fire at Brig. Gen. Issa al-Khouli in the morning as he left his home in the Damascus neighborhood of Rukn-Eddine. Al-Khouli was a doctor and the chief of a military hospital in the capital.
Such assassinations are not uncommon outside Damascus and army officers have been killed in the past, mostly in the restive provinces of Homs and Idlib.
Violence in other parts of the country left at least 11 people dead as regime troops pushed into rebel-held neighborhoods in the restive central city of Homs and shelled the mountain town of Zabadani, north of Damascus.
The U.N. estimates that 5,400 people have been killed in Syria since the uprising began in March. But that figure is from January, when the U.N. stopped counting because the chaos in the country has made it all but impossible to check the figures. Hundreds are reported to have been killed since.
The Assad regime says terrorists acting out a foreign conspiracy to destabilize the country are behind the uprising, not people seeking to transform the authoritarian regime. The Syrian government says more than 2,000 soldiers and police officers have been killed by terrorists since March.
Syria's turmoil began with peaceful protests against Assad's rule, sparking the fierce regime crackdown. But it has since grown more militarized as army defectors and armed protesters formed a group known as the Free Syrian Army. The FSA has carried out attacks on the military and sought to secure control of opposition-dominated areas, as well as defend against regime assault.
After Russia and China last weekend vetoed a Western and Arab attempt at the U.N. to pressure Assad to step down, the FSA's commander said there was no choice now but armed force to oust the president. Western and Arab countries are considering forming a coalition to help Syria's opposition, though so far there is no sign they intend to give direct aid to the FSA.
The president of Iran, one of Assad's top allies, warned Arab countries on Saturday not to give aid to the opposition.