Syrian rebels and government forces fought fiercely in Damascus for a third straight day, according to Washington Post and other reports.
Footage of burning buildings and heavy gunfire is emerging from the scene, and social media posts depict harrowing combat in the historic city.
The Post’s Liz Sly wrote: “Damascus has become a war zone. This is the historic Midan district today. Wow.”
Syrian government helicopters have also been shelling rebels in the capital. A video depicts local residents screaming as they witness earth-shaking blasts, burning homes and plumes of smoke after a group of helicopters flies overhead:
The Post reported, citing the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, that “rebel forces from elsewhere in Syria were converging on Damascus to help with the fight.” That development was adding to “the sense that some kind of final showdown may be at hand,” The Post’s report said.
“The question now remains if the Syrian government decides to isolate Damascus, how long can the resistance hold its breath,” said Cairo-based activist Rami Jarrah in an e-mail. “This really depends on the next few days and what can be organized on the ground efficiently.”
Midan was one of the hardest-hit areas, but Jarrah said on Twitter that the violence had touched multiple neighborhoods across Damascus:
One Syrian who is identified as tweeting from Damascus also provided video of smoke billowing out of the Nahr Aisha neighborhood:
A senior commander with the opposition Free Syrian Army said the strategy was to “bleed down” government forces in the stand-off.
Sami al-Hamwi posted a snapshot of a security bus allegedly destroyed by rebels:
Jarrah and others also tweeted that government forces had established a sort of base at a local hospital:
Confirmed: Mushtahid hospital has become a depot for government forces, the #babmusala square is packed with over 2000 government elements— Alexander Page (@AlexanderPageSY) July 17, 2012
Click here to see more photos of the Free Syrian Army: