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Syrian revolt creeps closer to Damascus


The suspicion of the young Syrian soldier manning a checkpoint north-east of central Damascus was no surprise. But his words came as a shock.

“Free army!” he declared, at this road junction in the Damascus suburb of Irbin, just half an hour’s drive from the seat of power of President Bashar al-Assad’s regime. “We are independent. We are with the people,” he continued, as a half-dozen of his comrades quickly gathered, one with a rocket propelled grenade launcher over his shoulder.
This unexpected meeting with the militarised opposition who style themselves the Free Syrian Army was just the first of a series of striking insights offered by the capital’s restive suburbs into the country’s social faultlines and its dangerous state of flux. Days after the Assad regime vowed to press on with a “security solution” to the 10-month uprising, the conflict’s lethal intensity is easily found in the down at heel communities that ring Damascus. So too is the growing desperation of many Syrians to find a peaceful end to bloodshed already estimated to have claimed more than 5,000 lives.

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