Russian Prime Minister Dmitri Medvedev: "Every week and every month the chances of [President Assad's] preservation are getting smaller and smaller"
Egypt (and Beyond) Live Coverage: Morsi Declares 30-Day State of Emergency br>
Sunday's Syria Live Coverage: Deaths from Shelling Near Aleppo
31 martyrs were reported in Damascus and its Suburbs, 24 in Idlib (most of them in Ariha), 18 in Hama (most of them in Hawejah), 17 in Aleppo, 11 in Homs, 7 in Daraa, and 6 in Deir Ezzor.
However, this number will very likely rise further. Heavy fires are raging in Jdeidet Artouz, less than 15 kilometers west of the capital, as a explosion has trapped residents inside some of the burning buildings.
Furthermore, heavy fighting is reported across Hama province. According to the LCC's latest reports, many were killed in Baridij, 35 kilometers northwest of Hama, and "dozens" were killed in the nearby village of Magher after intense shelling.
2054 GMT: Rebels Attack Near Damascus Airport. Earlier we reported that there was fighting near the Damascus International Airport. Now, this video, shared on Facebook, reportedly shows an infantry-supported tank of the Ansar al Islam brigade attacking a "shabiha" location near the airport:
24 martyrs were reported in Damascus and its Suburbs, 22 in Idlib (most of them in Ariha), 14 in Hama (most of them in Hawejah), 17 in Aleppo, 7 in Homs, 7 in Daraa, and 4 in Deir Ezzor.
See our note on the LCC (update 1427).
The LCC also posts this video, reportedly showing rebels destroying a tank in Al Qadam, Damascus (updates below):
1730 GMT: Intense Fighting in Damascus. This video reportedly shows "mortars" falling in Al Qadam, southwest of Damascys. The entire sky is obscured by smoke:
Meanwhile, there are reports of heavy fighting near Damascus International airport, southeast of Damascus:
Meanwhile, more intense battles are raging in East Ghouta, to the north of the airport:
1646 GMT: Insurgents Storm Al Qadam. This video reportedly shows several video clips of a group of insurgents preparing, gathering, deploying in and fighting for the Damascus suburb of Al Qadam, in southwest Damascus:
1509 GMT: Fighting in Damascus. Regime forces have raided al Qadam, in southern Damascus, however it seems they have met fierce resistance. The CFDPC, a coalition of activists working to report on Damascus, have this summary:
Clashes between regime forces and FSA continue in the Qadam area of Damascus meanwhile shelling targets the area
Videos posted on the CFDPC Facebook page show the FSA conducting sniper and mortar attacks. Pictures show the aftermath. Another video shows residents fleeing. This video shows smoke rising after heavy fighting and shelling near a rail station that has apparently been overrun by rebel fighters:
1452 GMT: Air Strikes in East Damascus. According to multiple sources, there have been extensive airstrikes in parts of the eastern suburbs of Damascus, including the heavily-populated Zablatani. Several videos show the aftermath of what activists say was damage from Assad jet fighters:
The fighting is not contained to Al Qadam. The CFDPC has also posted many videos of fighting between FSA and Syrian Army in Mleha, in southwest Damascus, while this video reportedly shows a heavy machinegun unloading on regime positions in Irbin, northeast of Damascus:
1447 GMT: Moscow's Motives. What motivates Russia to continue to support the Assad regime? Professor Mark Katz, of George Mason University, writes for Syria Deeply and describes a multitude of geopolitical factors, but argues that there are really three key reasons:
First and foremost, Moscow does not want to lose its one remaining ally in the Arab World. Without its position in Syria, Moscow would lose even the limited ability it still has to exert influence in the region.
Further, Moscow feels genuinely betrayed by what happened in Libya and does not want to see anything like this happen again. In March 2011, Russia (and China) acquiesced to the passage of a UN Security Council Resolution imposing a no-fly zone in Libya as a means of preventing the Libyan dictator, Muammar Qaddafi, from slaughtering its opponents. Moscow, though, has complained bitterly that the West and its allies went well beyond the terms of his resolution and actively supported the opposition’s effort to overthrow the Qaddafi regime. Since then, Moscow has been adamant about not allowing the passage of any Security Council resolution—including one imposing just economic sanctions—against the Assad regime for fear that the West and its allies will exceed its terms as well.
In addition, Moscow genuinely believes that the West misunderstand what is happening in Syria. However bad the Assad regime is, what follows it (in Moscow’s view) will be far worse—for the West as well as for Russia.
12 martyrs in Damascus and its Suburbs; 4 martyrs in Dara'a; 3 martyrs in Homs; 3 martyrs in Deir Ezzor; 2 martyr in Idlib; 2 martyre in Aleppo; and 1 martyr in Hama.
The Local Coordination Committees (LCC) is an activist network operating both inside and outside of Syria. They claim to use stringent verification processes to ensure that a member of the LCC can vouch for any information posted either on their Facebook page or their website. The LCC also populates a database of those killed in the Syrian conflict, which can be seen at the website for the Center for Documentation of Violations in Syria.
The LCC's casualty figures are a mix of insurgents and civilians, and never include regime casualties. Syrian State Media has stopped reporting regime casualty figures.
In ordinary circumstances, 27 people being killed by their own government would be a headline. Syria is nothing like "ordinary," however, and a death toll of 27 is surprisingly low for this hour.
1404 GMT: Jabhat Al Nusra Strike Hama. Jabhat al Nusra, the hardline Islamist rebel group which has been placed on the US terrorism list for having links to Al Qaeda, has claimed responsibility for a massive suicide bombing last week in Hama province:
Jabhat al-Nusra, which the U.S. says has ties to Al Qaeda and has declared a terrorist organization, said in a statement posted online that one of its suicide bombers detonated a car bomb last Monday at the headquarters of a pro-government militia in the central province of Hama. It said the bomber drove a truck packed with explosives to the militia's complex in the town of Salamiya and blew himself up "to give the tyrannical regime a taste" of violence it has been inflicting on the Syrian people.
Activists said at least 42 people, mostly pro-Assad militiamen, were killed in the blast. The government did not say how many people were killed, although state-run SANA news agency published photographs of what it said was a funeral procession for the blast's victims on Wednesday. In one of the photographs, a dozen men are seen standing behind 11 caskets, wrapped into a Syrian flag.
This attack was one of two large truck bomb attacks by Al Nusra last week. Another targeted a military checkpoint in Qusayr, south of Homs.
The attack in Hama, and several other car bombings, prompted the Local Coordination Committees to publish a condemnation of all suicide attacks or car bombs that could kill civilians as collateral damage. This, and other events, have been cited as signs that the tension is mounting between the hardline Jabhat al Nusra and the less extreme and more secular opposition and rebel groups.
1359 GMT: Islamists Rising. French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius has warned of the dangers of Islamists taking control of the rising against the Syrian regime if foreign assistance is not given to the opposition.
Addressing a meeting with leaders of the opposition Syrian National Coalition in Paris, Fabius said, "Facing the collapse of a state and society, it is Islamist groups that risk gaining ground if we do not act as we should. We cannot let a revolution that started as a peaceful and democratic protest degenerate into a conflict of militias."
Three more shells hit a river stream near the town of Al-Dababiyeh.
1010 GMT: The Turkish Border. NATO's publicity video for the first Patriot anti-missile system deployed on Turkey's border with Syria --- five more will soon be operational:
0530 GMT: A Russian Intervention. With no significant change in the "normal" of regime bombardment and insurgent pressure on President Assad's military in the north, Russian Prime Minister Dmitri Medvedev took the headlines Sunday with a grim forecast for Assad: "I think that with every day, every week and every month the chances of his preservation are getting smaller and smaller."
Medvedev criticised the Syrian leader for failures early in the two-year conflict, "He should have done everything much faster, attracting part of the moderate opposition, which was ready to sit at the table with him, to his side. This was his grave mistake, and possibly a fatal one."
Despite the marked break in Russia's line that Assad will stay in power, even during a transitional government, there was no shift in Moscow's position on foreign intervention: "I repeat, again, this must be decided by the Syrian people. Not Russia, not the United States, not any other country.”
Moscow has been one of President Assad's staunchest backers during the crisis, blocking punishment by the United Nations Security Council, providing economic and military assistance, and refusing to accept international plans for his departure.