With double bombing in Damascus, is Syria's frontline moving to the capital? (+video)
Battles around Damascus have important implications for Syria's conflict, but Aleppo is likely to remain the central focus until either the rebels or government forces can sustain the upper hand.
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Arthur Bright is the Europe Editor at The Christian Science Monitor. He has worked for the Monitor in various capacities since 2004, including as the Online News Editor and a regular contributor to the Monitor's Terrorism & Security blog. He is also a licensed Massachusetts attorney.
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Yesterday was one of the deadliest days in Syria so far, with a human rights group reporting more than 300 people killed, including 14 in a high-profile rebel attack in the heavily fortified city of Damascus that has led some to wonder if fighting has shifted away from commercial hub Aleppo.
In a report released today, the London-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said that yesterday's 300-plus death toll included 55 people in the rural areas around Damascus and at least 40 more shot in the town of al-Dhiyabia near the capital, writes Reuters. Reuters adds that other activists put the al-Dhiyabia toll, reportedly the result of a massacre committed by members of President Bashar al-Assad's regime, as high as 107.
A new report from the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, also released today, says that the conflict has displaced nearly 300,000 Syrian refugees, and will displace up to 700,000 by the end of the year.
The Syrian Observatory's tally also included 14 people killed in the twin bombing attack on Syria's military headquarters – and the following gun battle – in Damascus yesterday morning, about which new details and video have since emerged.
Syrian state television aired CCTV footage, republished by the Daily Telegraph, of what it says were the two explosions. The first explosion appears to have been a suicide car bomb by the side of the road outside the military base; the video shows a white van pulling up to the curb and then exploding, with no one in its immediate vicinity. An indeterminate amount of time later in the same video, another explosion is visible behind a building in the compound beyond the roadside. The cause of the second explosion is not clear.
But activist Samir al-Shami told Reuters that the explosions were the result of a suicide car bomb followed by a second car bomb on the perimeter of the military base.