The regime is amassing elite forces for a major assault on an army base on the outskirts of Damascus, in which at least 200 troops are believed to be besieged by rebels, Reuters reported.
Since Sunday, opposition fighters have expanded their control of parts of the base in Harasta. They are well entrenched, and the trapped troops might be used as bargaining chips “if they remain alive,” Al-Aridi said.
The likely outcome of the showdown is unclear, “but the regime can claim no victory or control, as it has been saying,” he added. The opposition Free Syrian Army (FSA) “is the major power” besieging the base, he said.
In four days of heavy airstrikes, 38 civilians have been killed and at least 147 people injured. Five civilians were killed on Tuesday. The regime and its supporters “don’t care about a political solution,” Al-Aridi said.
Bahia Mardini, a UK-based Syrian journalist and human rights activist, told Arab News: “We believe passionately in the elimination of terrorism and the defeat of all terrorist groups in Syria — whatever name they go by — but we must spare civilian lives.”
She added: “The regime and its Russian allies mustn’t be allowed to use terrorism as an excuse to kill civilians and maintain their deadly siege.” Despite the regime’s scorched-earth policy, Syrians continue to reject violence, Mardini said.
She appealed to the six new members of the UN Security Council “to stand up to the regime and ask its allies to pressure it so that together we can prevent the killing of Syrian civilians.”