Blast kills high-ranking Syrian officials

Rebels become more brazen inside capital

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“It doesn’t give an indication of how strong the opposition is, but it raises many questions of how they got in there and how they got the information, whether they had a collaborator inside,” said Nadim Shehadi, an associate fellow at the London think tank Chatham House.

“The regime will be thinking, ‘Who betrayed us?’ If they feel the regime has lost its main strength, they may feel encouraged to defect,” he said.

A cloak-and-dagger rumor circulating in Damascus suggested that the attack could have been orchestrated as part of a military coup or that it was staged by the regime itself.

Fear in Damascus

As the violence escalates, activists claim that whole parts of Damascus have fallen out of state control. In al-Tadamon, a poor district about five miles south of the city center, activists said the conditions were like a siege.

“In Tadamon, there is no water, no electricity,” said Jacob Hussein, a 30-year-old activist with the Local Coordination Committee. “We use batteries. We use sometimes generators. We find many ways actually to get water, to get food supplies. We have just the Free Syrian Army defending Tadamon and not letting anybody in.”

He said tens of thousands have fled the district and were massing inside the nearby Yamouk camp for Palestinian refugees.

“Now the majority of al-Tadamon neighborhood is displaced,” Mr. Hussein said. “Our Palestinian brothers are hosting them now.”

After the deaths of some of those closest to the regime, some residents said they were scared of what might happen next.

“We are afraid of any act of retaliation from the regime’s part,” said Ms. al-Shami of the Revolution Leadership Council of Damascus.

Others say the fighting moving to the capital marks the beginning of the end.

“The regime right from the beginning was keen to show Damascus as a safe zone with normal life because this is the capital and the headquarters of all the secret service and the regime media,” said an activist who asked not be named.

“Damascus has a different nature than other parts of Syria because of this, and killing those criminals in their own places is a clear message that there’s no safe place for them wherever they run and hide. That’s why the nature of resistance in Damascus is different from other places.”

What is clear, analysts say, is that all of those involved will be considering what they can do next.

“Huge complex calculations are happening in the minds of everybody involved in Syria,” Mr. Shehadi said. “The impact is much more important than military action. People are expecting more defections, but they are not easy in the regime because everybody is watching everybody else.”

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