Blasts rock Damascus as Assad vows crackdown
AP BEIRUT RESIDENTS in the Syrian capital awoke to two loud explosions on Sunday amid reports from activists that the Damascus headquarters of the ruling Baath party had been hit by several rocketpropelled grenades. There was no immediate confirmation of the report but the Free Syrian Army, a group of military defectors, claimed responsibility for the attack.
In a statement posted on the group’s Facebook page, the FSA said the assault caused casualties and damage to the building. But eyewitnesses said the party headquarters appeared intact and reported no significant security deployment around it. If true, the Damascus attack on the Baath Party’s main building would signal a significant shift in the eightmonth revolution against President Bashar al Assad, bringing the violence that has engulfed much of the rest of the country to the heart of the Syrian capital, which has so far been relatively untouched.
In Cairo, the Arab League said it has rejected amendments proposed by Syria to a peace plan to end the crisis, saying the changes put forward by Damascus alter the plan’s “essence.” The 22-member organisation did not give details of Syria’s proposed amendments.
But it said in a statement on Sunday that Damascus’ proposals were unacceptable because they introduce “drastic changes” to the mandate of an observers’ mission the league wants to dispatch to Syria to ensure the implementation of the peace plan. The Arab League has already suspended Syria’s membership over its failure to abide by the plan, which calls for the withdrawal of the government’s tanks from the streets, the release of political prisoners and a halt to attacks on civilians. An Arab League official speaking on condition of anonymity because he was not authorised to brief the media said the Syrian government was required to implement the peace plan in its entirety.
Assad, meanwhile, vowed to continue with a security crackdown to crush “militants” who he says are massacring Syrians on a daily basis. “The role of the government is to fight those militants in order to restore stability and to protect civilians,” he said in an interview with Britain’s Sunday Times.