Fierce fighting in Damascus
Syria's military deployed armoured vehicles near central Damascus yesterday as troops battled rebels around the capital in what activists said could be a turning point in the 16-month uprising.
Russia slammed as "blackmail" Western pressure to push for a UN Security Council resolution against Syria's regime and said it would be "unrealistic" to expect its ally, President Bashar al-Assad, to quit.
With battles raging between the army and rebels around Damascus for a second day, troops deployed armoured vehicles near Al-Midan.
"This is the first time armoured and military transport vehicles are deployed in Al-Midan," Rami Abdel Rahman, of the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, said.
"Before, the security forces were deployed to suppress protests. Now, we have army troops engaged in combat," said the director of the UK-based watchdog.
An activist said the army was trying to overrun Al-Midan and described the fighting as a "turning point" in the revolt against Assad's autocratic regime.
The battles are "the first of their kind. You can say there is a before and after in the Syrian revolution, and the turning point was July 15," said the activist, who identified himself as Abu Musab.
"The army is trying to storm Al-Midan from two sides with military vehicles," he said. "There are many injured and some killed. We need blood donations."
Activists said the army and Free Syrian Army rebels had been locked in fierce clashes since Sunday in the southern Damascus neighbourhood of Tadamon, and in Kfar Sousa in the west and Jobar in the east.
In Geneva, the International Committee of the Red Cross sounded a note of alarm, saying Syria is now in a state of all-out civil war and that all sides must respect humanitarian law or risk facing war crimes prosecutions.