Shabiha, rebels battle in Damascus as civilians flee

 April 2, 2013

By Ahmed Kwider

0401DamascusAlawitesFleeFighting intensified on Tuesday in the Barzeh district of northeast Damascus, as civilian apartment buildings were shelled and an exodus of residents began to move north of the capital, activists said on Tuesday.

Battles continued throughout the day between rebel forces and the government’s army, according to the Local Coordination Committees and the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

“It’s dangerous here because of the random shells fired by the shabiha from Eish al-Warwar,” a 36-year-old high-school Arabic teacher who asked to remain unnamed for her safety told SAS News. “We’ve been under siege for 20 days; we’re exhausted,” she said. 

“Many families have left their homes in the Barzeh neighborhood because the clashes there have recently intensified,” said Mazen Bassel, the spokesman for the community-journalist network Shahed News in Syria.

“The Barzeh area was being bombarded daily by shabiha, so one [rebel] battalion responded by bombing Eish al-Warwar [on Monday],” Bassel said.

Barzeh is currently a disputed area, with the high-school teacher saying dozens of government snipers have arrived and rebels are stationed throughout the area. Eish al-Warwar is a largely Alawite area, with Syrians saying it is home to members of the shabiha.

The exodus of families has increased in recent days “at the same time the electricity was cut in these areas and the internet was shut down,” said Susan Ahmed, a spokeswoman for the Revolutionary Leadership Council in Outer Damascus province.

“Some people are saying there is something wrong with the electricity station in Al-Qabon,” said Ahmad al-Farouq, a network engineer who lives nearby. “Others say it is cover for President Bashar Assad to leave the area, as it is no longer safe in the capital and Outer Damascus province,” al-Farouq said.