Tipping Point in Syria?

Damascus Bombing Kills Three of Assad's Top Aides - Voice of America.

Syrian state television says a bomb exploded during a high-level meeting at the National Security building in the capital, killing Defense Minister Daoud Rajha and Deputy Defense Minister Assef Shawkat, brother-in-law of President Bashar al-Assad.

Syrian General Hassan Turkmani, a former defense minister, is also reported to have died of injuries from the bombing.

Syrian Rebels Land Deadly Blow to Assad’s Inner Circle - New York Times.

The killing on Wednesday of President Bashar al-Assad’s key security aides in a brazen bombing attack, close to Mr. Assad’s own residence, called into question the ability of a government that depends on an insular group of loyalists to function effectively as it battles a strengthening opposition.

Bombing in Damascus Kills Top Officials - Washington Post.

Government forces were reported to be shelling several neighborhoods of Damascus on Thursday, a day after a bombing that killed three senior military figures brought the bloodshed that has engulfed Syria to the heart of President Bashar al-Assad’s regime. The blast, which targeted a mid-morning meeting of top security chiefs charged with suppressing Syria’s 16-month-old uprising, appeared to have been meticulously planned and executed, suggesting that rebels have managed to infiltrate Assad’s security apparatus in ways that call into question his regime’s capacity to survive.

Fresh Fighting Follows Regime Deaths - BBC.

Activists said artillery and helicopters were used in the worst attack, on a funeral south of Damascus. The president's brother-in-law, the head of his crisis team and defence minister died in yesterday's bombing. President Bashar al-Assad's own whereabouts are unknown. He has not made any public appearances since the attack. Rebel groups said the bomb had been planted the day before the meeting at national security headquarters where it was detonated. They predicted the government's imminent fall. The army has pledged to rid Syria of "criminal and murder gangs".

Assassinations Leave Void in Syrian Military Leadership - Voice of America.

The high-level assassinations on Wednesday of at least three top Syrian officials targeted President Bashar al-Assad's national security team, leaving a large void in the country's military leadership. The casualties include Defense Minister Daoud Rajha; General Asef Shawkat, the Syrian military's deputy chief of staff, who is married to Assad's elder sister; and Hassan Turkmani, a former defense minister and senior military adviser.

Is This a Turning Point in Syria? - Washington Post.

For months, senior members of the Obama administration have proclaimed that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s regime is on the brink of collapse, and for months, Assad’s government has withstood onslaughts by the opposition, economic sanctions and international pleas for a resolution to the crisis. The bombing that killed at least three senior Syrian security officials on Wednesday, however, proved to be the clearest indication yet that Assad’s government is vulnerable, providing reason both for hope and anxiety among U.S. officials and analysts as they monitor the fallout.

Damascus Confronts New Reality After Attack - New York Times.

The Syrian government has managed to insulate Damascus from the rest of the country since the uprising began in March 2011, including keeping out much of the foreign news media. It became a kind of a psychological yardstick: if Damascus remained under control, it meant the Assad government was still in control.

Fresh Fighting in Capital as Hundreds Flee Regime Reprisal Attacks - The Telegraph.

The military said residents have 48 hours to leave areas where clashes are taking place between security forces and rebels, according to security sources. "These extremely violent clashes should continue in the next 48 hours to cleanse Damascus of terrorists by the time Ramadan begins" on Friday, the source said, referring to the Muslim holy fasting month. The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights watchdog said "hundreds of people" fled several areas.

Syrian Troops Attack Rebel Areas Around Damascus - Associated Press.

Anti-regime activists say government forces are shelling a number of neighborhoods in and around the capital Damascus a day after a bomb killed three members of President Bashar Assad's inner circle. The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported shelling in number of areas Thursday. It says residents are fleeing parts of the Mezzeh neighborhood after troops surrounded it and clashed with local rebels.

Shawkat's Death a Blow to Syrian Regime - Voice of America.

Among those killed in Wednesday's blast is the brother-in-law of President Bashar Al-Assad, army deputy chief-of-staff General Assef Shawkat. Though little is known about Shawkat, and his public appearances have been few, he was widely viewed as the regime’s “enforcer.”

Blast Strips Assad of a Valuable Family Member and a Pair of Powerful Loyalists - New York Times.

In a government that always entrusts top security posts to close relatives, the death of Mr. Shawkat was the most critical loss. He was the husband of Mr. Assad’s only sister, a former spy chief and the deputy defense minister. After the deaths of two brothers, Mr. Assad has only one left - Maher al-Assad, the chief of the elite praetorian guards charged with protecting the family. His whereabouts on Wednesday were unknown.

What's Next for al-Assad? -CNN.

The brazen attack that killed several senior leaders of the Syrian government Wednesday represents a profound psychological blow that could loosen President Bashar al-Assad's grip on power, several experts said. The blast followed a sharp increase in fighting in Damascus in the past few days and marked the most significant attack on al-Assad's inner circle in 16 months of fighting that government opponents say has killed more than 16,000 people. It killed the country's defense minister, emboldened anti-government rebels and immediately raised questions about the stability of al-Assad's regime.

Syrian Rebels Hone Bomb Skills to Even the Odds - New York Times.

The lethal attack on Wednesday on President Bashar al-Assad’s senior security chiefs aligned neatly with a tactical shift that had changed the direction of Syria’s long conflict: the opposition fighters’ swift and successful adoption of makeshift bombs.

Washington Begins to Plan for Collapse of Syrian Government - New York Times.

With the growing conviction that the Assad family’s 42-year grip on power in Syria is coming to an end, Obama administration officials worked on contingency plans Wednesday for a collapse of the Syrian government, focusing particularly on the chemical weapons that Syria is thought to possess and that President Bashar al-Assad could try to use on opposition forces and civilians.

Syria Crisis Enters New Phase of Uncertainty - The Guardian.

Syria's uprising has entered uncharted territory after rebels fighting the regime of Bashar al-Assad killed three of his top security chiefs in a devastating bomb attack in the heart of Damascus on Wednesday – the single worst loss for the government in 16 months of increasingly bloody struggle.

Looking for an Endgame - Washington Post.

As Syria veers toward a violent political transition, U.S. officials are hoping to avoid a dangerous vacuum like the one that followed the 2003 toppling of Saddam Hussein in neighboring Iraq and triggered a sectarian civil war President Obama is seeking a “managed transition” in Syria with the twin goals of removing President Bashar al-Assad as soon as possible and doing so without the evaporation of the authority of the Syrian state.

Who were the Officials Killed in the Bombing? - Washington Post.

A bombing in Damascus killed two of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s top security officials, the Post reported, and the opposition Free Syrian Army claimed responsibility for the attack. Dawoud Rajha and Asef Shawkat were reportedly central to the Assad regime.

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