DAMASCUS – At a time when the international community is still unable to reach a consensus tobring about a favorable solution to the stand-off in Syria, the Syrian government seems to haveshelved all outside suggestions and chosen its own way: a military showdown to bring an end tothe intractable crisis once and for all.
Since the very beginning of the 16-month-old crisis, the Syrian government has repeatedlymade it clear that had it desired it would have settled the situation in a short time and got doneonce and for all with the anti-regime movement, which started in the form of peaceful protestsbut evolved later into a bloody armed insurgency.
The Syrian government argued that it kept down military options out of concerns for the lives ofcivilians as the alleged gunmen are reportedly hiding among civilians in residential areas ofrestive cities across the country, as well as in a bid to give a chance for a political settlement.
However, the escalation of violent acts and attempts by the so- called rebel Free Syrian Armyto take battles to President Bashar al-Assad’s main stronghold, the capital Damascus, haverepresented a milestone in the Syrian crisis.
The showdown was kicked off on Friday, when the fiercest battles erupted between the Syrianarmy and the rebels in some of the capital’s streets and its surroundings. The Syrian armyallegedly battled the Free Syrian Army’s fighters who had tried to launch simultaneous attacksagainst several army checkpoints in Damascus.
The next day, local media said the Syrian army “shook the ground underneath the gunmen’sfeet” and reported the killings of tens of the rebels, asserting that Damascus is immune to theattacks of gunmen.
The military showdown extended later to the restive northern parts of the country amid dailyofficial confirmations that those areas have been cleansed from “terrorists” one after anotherand the army has regained control of the areas from the hands of rebels.
In the latest “cleansing operation”, Syrian troops have succeeded in repelling armed rebelsfrom the mountainous town of Haffeh near the coastal city of Latakia after a week of intensefighting, state-run SANA news agency reported Wednesday.
The government troops have restored peace and tranquility to Haffeh, said SANA, adding thatthose armed groups had carried out acts of arson and sabotage to public and privateproperties as well as terrorizing local residents.
Large amounts of weapons were also confiscated during the clashes, said the report, addingthat the clashes have also claimed lives of an unspecified number of government soldiers.
On Tuesday, the Free Syrian Army reportedly announced its pull- back from Haffeh after aweek-long fighting. The rebels’ fighting in Haffeh came apparently in a bid to have a foothold ina certain area.
Also Tuesday, Syria’s mainstream media said the army regained full control of some rebel-heldneighborhoods in the battered central province of Homs, adding that operations are underwayto clean other areas in the restive province.
The escalation has drawn decries from the international community that voiced concerns aboutthe deteriorating humanitarian situation and the potential outbreak of a civil war. Some Westerncountries even said that Syria is already in a state of civil war.
The UN peacekeeping chief Herve Ladsous said Tuesday that the Syrian crisis has grown intoa “full-scale civil war.”
US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on Tuesday accused Russia of providing Syria with militaryhelicopters, saying that “the latest information we have (shows) that there are attackhelicopters on the way from Russia to Syria.”
She said the shipment “will escalate the conflict quite dramatically,” and warned that thesituation in Syria might get deadlier.
On his part, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov denied Clinton’s claims and accused theUnited States of supplying weapons to Syria’s rebels.
Russia was supplying “anti-air defense systems” to Damascus in a deal that “in no way violatesinternational laws,” Lavrov told a news conference during a brief visit to Iran.
Syria, meanwhile, has rejected any labeling of the ongoing conflict as a civil war, calling it”inconsistent with reality.”
“Talk of civil war in Syria is not compatible with reality… What is happening in Syria is a waragainst armed groups that choose terrorism,” Syrian state news agency SANA quoted a foreignministry statement as saying.
The Syrian government accused the West and the United States of aiding the gunmen, andsaid it is determined to eradicate “terrorism” and save its own people.
The military showdown was denounced by some parties and individuals in Syria, but observersbelieve that worries have also dramatically increase among Syrians following reports about theinfiltration of al-Qaida-linked Jihadists to fight alongside the Free Syrian Army and thepossibility of al-Qaida-style suicide bombings in the country.
As the situation on the ground places obstacles in the way of fully implementing the six-pointpeace plan proposed by UN-Arab League special envoy Kofi Annan, Syria stressedWednesday its commitment to the plan, but accused the armed groups of not abiding by it.
Chinese Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi said Wednesday that the international community shouldfully support Annan’s efforts on the Syria issue and adhere to the political path.
Yang reaffirmed China’s stance in a telephone conversation with Annan, who briefed Yangabout the idea of calling an international conference on the Syria issue and creating a “contactgroup.”
The move, said the envoy, is aimed at implementing related UN Security Council resolutionsand facilitating a political solution to the Syria crisis.