- Associated Press - Thursday, September 27, 2012

BEIRUT — Syrian authorities on Thursday sent text messages over cellphones nationwide with a message for rebels fighting President Bashar Assad’s regime: “Game over.”

The messages signed by the Syrian Arab Army also urged the rebels to surrender their weapons and warned the countdown to evict foreign fighters has begun.

The texts appear to be part of the regime’s psychological battle against the rebels, but are highly unlikely to have any effect on fighters intent on toppling Mr. Assad.

Syrians say they began receiving the messages a day after rebels bombed a military command center in Damascus — a major security breach of the heavily guarded capital that highlighted the regime’s growing vulnerability in the face of a rebellion growing in confidence and capabilities.

People with cellular subscriptions received the messages while those with prepaid phones did not, residents in the Syrian capital said.

Despite the high-profile attack, the two sides have been locked in a stalemate after 18 months of conflict.

Activists say the death toll since the conflict began in March last year has topped 30,000, with nearly two-thirds of the casualties reported in the past six months.

In August, Syrian army helicopters dropped leaflets warning rebels in Damascus to hand over their arms and seek amnesty.

In Geneva on Thursday, the United Nations’ refugee agency said the U.N. and its partners are launching a revised appeal for $487.9 million to help support Syrian refugees. It said 2,000 to 3,000 refugees are crossing into neighboring countries each day.

The U.N. refugee agency said 294,000 Syrian refugees are registered or awaiting registration in neighboring countries.

Earlier Thursday, a Lebanese TV station broadcast footage showing Syrian government troops driving rebels from a building they briefly had occupied a day earlier after a double car-bomb attack struck army headquarters in Damascus.

The images from Lebanon’s Al Manar TV station further demonstrated the scale of the security breach of the heavily guarded capital by rebels determined to topple the Assad regime.

The fighters detonated car bombs that engulfed the army headquarters in flames, followed by three hours of gunbattles in and around the compound Wednesday.

The government said four army guards were killed and 14 people were wounded, including civilians and military personnel.

The carefully orchestrated attacks were the most dramatic security breach in the center of the capital Damascus since July, when rebels detonated explosives inside a high-level crisis meeting in Damascus that killed four top regime officials, including Mr. Assad’s brother-in-law and the defense minister.

They highlighted the regime’s growing vulnerability, even as the 18-month battle to bring down Mr. Assad is locked in a stalemate.