A day after a deadly blast killed top Syrian defense and security officials the situation remains tense in Damascus, as government forces clash with armed groups in the city.
Syrian state TV channels report that “the counterterrorism operation has been successful” in some of the city’s districts and many militants have been killed or captured.
“We were really scared last night because of the blasts and shooting. By morning our district was almost empty,” a resident of the Kafr Sousa district said.
A resident of Yarmouk, the largest Palestinian refugee community in Syria, said many people from the neighboring districts, where the fighting still rages, took refuge there.
Reports from Damascus describe the city streets as empty on Thursday, with few people or cars around. Markets have been busy, however, with people doing final preparations for Friday, the beginning of the Islamic holy month of Ramadan.
“Traditionally people buy a lot of food ahead of Ramadan. This time, as the situation gets worse, they have to stock up on it. Many fear that the situation in Damascus will remain tense for at least a few more days,” a city resident told RIA Novosti by phone.
A blast during a meeting of ministers and security officials at the national security headquarters killed some members of president al-Assad’s inner circle, including Defense Minister Daoud Rajha, his deputy and Bashar al-Assad’s brother-in-law Assef Shawkat and Hafez Makhlouf, al-Assad's cousin and the head of investigations at the Syrian Intelligence Agency. The country’s interior minister was injured.
Meanwhile, rumors continue to spread in Arab and Western media about the fate of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. Some reports suggest he was injured in Wednesday’s blast, while others say he fled Damascus and took refuge in Lathakia.
The information ministry urged Syrians not to take this information seriously, saying it was meant to “undermine the morale of Syrian citizens.”