Reports from the Syrian capital of Damascus, indicate that Dawood Rajiha, the Minister of Defense in President Bashar Assad’s embattled regime, was killed this morning, July 18, 2012, in a suicide bombing. Syrian state television reported that the Middle Eastern country’s Interior Minister was seriously injured in the blast and Assad’s brother-in-law, General Assef Shawkat, the Deputy Defense Minister, was also killed in the attack. Shawkat was married to Assad’s elder sister, Bushra and he was widely feared.
The meeting of the Government’s top ministers and security officials was taking place at the National Security Headquarters in Damascus, when the suicide bomber struck. The dead and wounded were taken to nearby al-Shami Hospital, which was immediately surrounded by Republican Guard troops.
Earlier in the morning, the army barracks near the “Palace of the People” came under heavy rebel fire. One witness, Yasmine, who works as an architect, told the Jerusalem Post, “I could hear the sound of small arms fire and explosions are getting louder and louder from the direction of the barracks.”
Sporadic gunfire and bomb blasts rocked the beleaguered capital city throughout the morning. Fighting in Damascus has now entered it’s fourth day, as the life and death struggle between government troops and the Rebels continues to escalate. President Assad has been more than willing to use overwhelming force against the uprising that began on March 15, 2012, when troops opened fire on unarmed protesters in cities across the country.
The death toll is estimated to include more than 17,00 civilians, many of whom were shot execution style at point blank range. The military has also been making widespread use of detention without trial or due process. Many victims of the government crackdown have accused Assad’s security service of employing brutal torture to extract information and intimidate critics. Blinding, burning, electric shock, amputation and prolonged beatings have been standard practice according to survivors.
The United Nations Security Council has been unable to come up with any meaningful sanctions or solutions to end the bloodshed in Syria; in large part due to Russia’s stubborn refusal to allow any intervention against its long time ally and client. The United Nations has 300 observers and peace negotiators on the ground, but they have been largely ineffective. U.N. peacekeepers have come under fire from Syrian Military forces on several occasions and Envoy Kofi Annan has said he is “shocked and appalled at reports of mass killings.” Despite repeated calls for his resignation from many concerned nations, Assad is determined to maintain his family’s five decade, iron fisted rule and the Syrian people continue to suffer.