Syrians flee Damascus as Assad launches fightback

Exodus grows with 60,000 already in Lebanon while cars queue at the border

The Syrian regime yesterday launched a desperate campaign to win back territory from rebels attempting to shake the foundations of its power, driving them out of a key Damascus neighbourhood and sending panicked residents flooding across the borders.

The UN refugee agency said it was "gravely concerned" about the welfare of as many as 30,000 refugees who have poured into Lebanon in the past 48 hours. Many fled from the capital, which until this week had been largely unscathed by the violence that has rocked the nation.

After relentless shelling, the government said it had wrested back control of the central neighbourhood of Midan which fell into rebel hands a day earlier. Activists said rebels had made a "tactical withdrawal" to save civilians from the violence.

The deserted streets were left strewn with rubble, burned out cars and the bodies of fighters.

As the fighting continued to engulf several suburbs, the UN Security council finally managed to reach consensus on a watered down resolution on Syria which extends the observer mission for 30 days, just hours before their mandate expired.

The outcome was a disappointment to Western nations including the UK who tabled a Chapter 7 resolution, paving the way for military intervention. However, the council was forced to bow to pressure from Assad's allies Russia and China once more, after they wielded their vetoes for a third time.

President Bashar al-Assad's grip on the capital and his borders has slipped since the bombing of a meeting of the regime's crisis command centre on Wednesday, but the army was yesterday engaged in a fierce campaign to regain ground. The Free Syrian Army (FSA) has launched a concerted campaign to take hold of Damascus neighbourhoods and seize strategic checkpoints and border posts, with Thursday the bloodiest day of the conflict so far according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, with 310 people killed.

Assad suffered a further blow yesterday as his intelligence chief Hisham Bekhtyar succumbed to injuries sustained in the bombing. Memorials for the blast's other three victims, including the president's brother-in-law, were held in Damascus yesterday, according to state media, which did not say if the President attended.

With Damascus engulfed in fighting once more, cars queued for hours to cross into Lebanon where aid agencies are struggling to cope with as many as 60,000 refugees already in the country. "Around 10 of my friends have left with their families," said one of resident of Kafr Souseh, which has been rocked by fighting. "They say they are going just for the weekend but I don't think they'll be back unless things calm down. It's been a real war and this is something people in Damascus really aren't used to."

The FSA seized two checkpoints on the Turkish border, and one in Iraq while army troops were distracted by the turmoil in Damascus. Despite reports yesterday that Assad's forces were regaining ground, rebels along the Turkey-Syria border were galvanised. "Taking over the border posts raised the spirits of the rebels," said Ahmad Trad, a defected Syrian helicopter pilot living in Turkey.

He said that in the past days a number of Syrian refugees in Turkey were beginning to make plans to return to Syria and fight with the FSA. "I came here only to rest and I will go back," Mr Trad said. "A lot of people here want to go back to join the Free Syrian Army."

Mustafa Baidak, a rebel commander from the northern Syria town of Jisr al-Shughour, said taking the borders could reopen vital routes for supplies and injured fighters.

Suggested Topics
News
people'It can last and it's terrifying'
Sport
Danny Welbeck's Manchester United future is in doubt
footballGunners confirm signing from Manchester United
Sport
footballStriker has moved on loan for the remainder of the season
News
people Emma Watson addresses celebrity nude photo leak
PROMOTED VIDEO
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Sport
footballFeaturing Bart Simpson
News
Katie Hopkins appearing on 'This Morning' after she purposefully put on 4 stone.
peopleKatie Hopkins breaks down in tears over weight gain challenge
Arts and Entertainment
Olivia Colman topped the list of the 30 most influential females in broadcasting
tv
News
Kelly Brook
peopleA spokesperson said the support group was 'extremely disappointed'
Life and Style
techIf those brochure kitchens look a little too perfect to be true, well, that’s probably because they are
Sport
Andy Murray celebrates a shot while playing Jo-Wilfried Tsonga
TennisWin sets up blockbuster US Open quarter-final against Djokovic
Arts and Entertainment
Hare’s a riddle: Kit Williams with the treasure linked to Masquerade
booksRiddling trilogy could net you $3m
Arts and Entertainment
Alex Kapranos of Franz Ferdinand performs live
music Pro-independence show to take place four days before vote
News
news Video - hailed as 'most original' since Benedict Cumberbatch's
News
i100
Life and Style
The longer David Sedaris had his Fitbit, the further afield his walks took him through the West Sussex countryside
lifeDavid Sedaris: What I learnt from my fitness tracker about the world
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Year 5 Teacher

£80 - £135 per day: Randstad Education Cheshire: Permanent post for a Key stag...

Geography Teacher

£90 - £160 per day: Randstad Education Birmingham: Geography Teacher urgently ...

SEN Teachers and Support Staff

£50 - £130 per day: Randstad Education Chelmsford: Are you an SEN Teacher or L...

SharePoint Engineer - Bishop's Stortford

£30000 - £35000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: A highly successful organ...

Day In a Page

'I’ll tell you what I would not serve - lamb and potatoes': US ambassador hits out at stodgy British food served at diplomatic dinners

'I’ll tell you what I would not serve - lamb and potatoes'

US ambassador hits out at stodgy British food
Radio Times female powerlist: A 'revolution' in TV gender roles

A 'revolution' in TV gender roles

Inside the Radio Times female powerlist
Endgame: James Frey's literary treasure hunt

James Frey's literary treasure hunt

Riddling trilogy could net you $3m
Fitbit: Because the tingle feels so good

Fitbit: Because the tingle feels so good

What David Sedaris learnt about the world from his fitness tracker
Saudis risk new Muslim division with proposal to move Mohamed’s tomb

Saudis risk new Muslim division with proposal to move Mohamed’s tomb

Second-holiest site in Islam attracts millions of pilgrims each year
Alexander Fury: The designer names to look for at fashion week this season

The big names to look for this fashion week

This week, designers begin to show their spring 2015 collections in New York
Will Self: 'I like Orwell's writing as much as the next talented mediocrity'

'I like Orwell's writing as much as the next talented mediocrity'

Will Self takes aim at Orwell's rules for writing plain English
Meet Afghanistan's middle-class paint-ballers

Meet Afghanistan's middle-class paint-ballers

Toy guns proving a popular diversion in a country flooded with the real thing
Al Pacino wows Venice

Al Pacino wows Venice

Ham among the brilliance as actor premieres two films at festival
Neil Lawson Baker interview: ‘I’ve gained so much from art. It’s only right to give something back’.

Neil Lawson Baker interview

‘I’ve gained so much from art. It’s only right to give something back’.
The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

Wife of President Robert Mugabe appears to have her sights set on succeeding her husband
The model of a gadget launch: Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed

The model for a gadget launch

Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed
Alice Roberts: She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

Alice Roberts talks about her new book on evolution - and why her early TV work drew flak from (mostly male) colleagues
Get well soon, Joan Rivers - an inspiration, whether she likes it or not

Get well soon, Joan Rivers

She is awful. But she's also wonderful, not in spite of but because of the fact she's forever saying appalling things, argues Ellen E Jones
Doctor Who Into the Dalek review: A classic sci-fi adventure with all the spectacle of a blockbuster

A fresh take on an old foe

Doctor Who Into the Dalek more than compensated for last week's nonsensical offering