The situation in Syria tipped into chaos on Wednesday as a bomb blast apparently set by Free Syrian Army rebels ripped through a government office, killing several members of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s inner circle.
Confirmed “VIP” deaths came after the Syrian Defense Ministry was bombed in Damascus. Defense Minister Dawood Rajha, and his Deputy, Assad Shawket – Assad’s brother in law – and General Mohamed Al Chaar were both confirmed dead in the blast. Former Defense minister, Hassan Turkmani died later from injuries.
The Assad regime, has accused Western, Qatari, Saudi and Israeli factions for the bomb attack. Government officials stressed that the bombing was a suicide attack.
According to PolicyMic writer Ahmed Median who is currently stationed across the border from Syria in Lebanon, the rebel Free Syrian Army is now moving freely the Syrian capital, Damascus. Dozens of military chiefs have reportedly defected and fled to Cyprus. Five more with the command of 120 tanks defected today after the attacks and it is expected that regime is going to lose control over many cities where protests have raged for the last year.
Syrian forces are reportedly fighting back. Shabiha – the regime’s affiliated militia – is now attacking neighborhoods in the southern part of the country, especially in the rebel city of Homs.
Violence has reportedly also spilled into north Lebanon in Tripoli now.
Some analysts are already calling these new developments the final straw before Assad is overthrown in Syria.
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LIVE UPDATES: 2:20 PM Breaking news on Twitter: Syrians are attacking Palestinian refugee camps. Crows are getting bigger in Damascus.
2:19 PM Investigation is ongoing, but the latest report from TV Doniya suggests that a "suicide bomber blew himself up at the meeting."
2:10 PM The Free Syrian Army has officially claimed responsibility for the attack. From our sources in the Middle East, the Coordination Bureau of the FSA is calling on groups to attack checkpoints and security buildings inside Syria.
Wednesday, 12:35 p.m. Report Say Assad Wife Fled to Russia:
Reports that #Syria first lady Asma Al-Assad has fled to Russia.— Frank Gardner (@FrankRGardner) July 18, 2012
Wednesday, 12:30 p.m. U.S. Concerned That Syria is Spinning Out of Control, and that Chemical Weapons May Be Used:
Defense Secretary Leon Panetta says the U.S. is very concerned that the escalating violence in Syria is "rapidly spinning out of control."
Panetta told a Pentagon news conference Wednesday "it is more essential than ever" that the U.S. and the international community work through the UN to bring pressure on Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to step down and begin a peaceful transition.
Panetta appeared with British Defense Secretary Philip Hammond. They both expressed concern that Syria's large chemical weapons stocks need to be safeguarded.
Wednesday, 10 a.m.
FSA claiming responsible for bombing killing Defense Minister, Assef Shawkat...says its work of Sayyed al Shehada Battalion— Ivan Watson (@IvanCNN) July 18, 2012
Wednesday, 9 a.m. "Syria tipping into chaos, Britain's [foreign secretary] warns" -- AFP: "Syria is tipping into chaos and collapse, and a strong UN Security Council stand is needed to push for the creation of a transition government, British Foreign Secretary William Hague said Wednesday. 'It is clear that the situation is deteriorating rapidly,' Hague told reporters during a visit to Lithuania. 'The intensity of fighting is increasing, there are of course many reports now of fighting every night in Damascus itself, ... reflected in the increasing flow of refugees.'