The bombardment of Damascus

Explosions were heard in Damascus, after military helicopter was reported to have crashed. Photo: Reuters

Plumes of smoke are rising again from the Southern suburbs of Damascus. The army is continuing its bombardment of residential areas where, it says, rebels are holed up.

Every few minutes I hear another loud explosion and another column of smoke mushrooms its way up into the capital's skyline- visible to everyone here. Activists say thirty people were killed yesterday in the suburb at the centre of this attack, Hajar Aswad.

I have seen several clusters of tanks near the area. The suburbs are saturated with troops and checkpoints making movement in or out almost impossible. We were detained there almost as soon as we arrived. The suburbs have been effectively sealed off.

The rebels though say their men have left Hajar Aswad and two other areas. They claim they ran out of ammunition and have made a "strategic withdrawal".

The army is boasting that it has inflicted heavy losses on rebels there. So President Assad, seen smiling broadly yesterday with Iran's Foreign Minister, may feel content that his men have recaptured an area of his capital.

Syria's President Bashar al-Assad meets Iran's Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi in Damascus. Credit: Reuters/Sana

But the very fact that there's a heavy bombardment two miles from his home and that there's every chance the rebels will attack again from another area, should wipe the grin off his face.

Early today one of his army's helicopters crashed on the outskirts of the city. State TV offered no explanation, but did report the crash. Locals in Douma say attack helicopters and a MIG jet were flying low over the area. There was gunfire, they say, then the helicopter went down.

From the South to the North of his capital, the war creeps closer to President Assad every day.

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