THE GUARDIAN: Troops seized back eastern suburbs of Damascus from rebels late on Sunday after an unprecedented operation that saw around 2,000 troops, at least 50 tanks and armoured vehicles flood the area, according to activists. An activist named Kamal, in the eastern al-Ghouta area on the edge of the capital, told Reuters:
The Free Syrian Army has made a tactical withdrawal. Regime forces have re-occupied the suburbs and started making house-to-house arrests.
Maher al-Naimi, a spokesman for the Free Syrian Army of defectors fighting Assad’s forces, appeared to confirm that account:
Tanks have gone in but they do not know where the Free Syrian Army is. We are still operating close to Damascus.
The unprecedented operation appears an attempt to regain the initiative from the rebels, who have grown increasingly bold in recent weeks. The BBC’s Middle East correspondent, Jeremy Bowen, discovered the FSA openly manning roadblocks in Damascus last week, just 30 minutes away from Bashar Al-Assad’s presidential palace. The insurgency, which is still raging in towns and cities across Syria – with further protests in Aleppo on Sunday — has now definitively reached the capital. MORE
WASHINGTON POST: The Assad regime “is looking weaker than at any point during the past 10 months”, according to analysts. Assad still holds the loyalties of the security forces, particularly the officer corps drawn mostly from his own Alawite sect. Diplomats in Damascus suspect, however, that defections among the rank and file are accelerating faster than had previously been thought, as soldiers deployed without leave on low pay for nearly a year find themselves drawn to the revolt. A cease-fire agreement under which security forces were forced to withdraw from the town of Zabadani, 20 miles west of Damascus, leaving it in the hands of the Free Syrian Army, came about in large part because the government feared soldiers would defect in large numbers if they were forced to keep attacking the city, according to activists in the town and diplomats. MORE
THE GUARIDAN: Activists said that more than 60 people were killed on Sunday, many of them in the Damascus suburbs. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said at least 27 civilians were killed Sunday, most of them in fighting in the Damascus suburbs and in the central city of Homs, a hotbed of anti-regime protests. Twenty-six soldiers and nine defectors were also killed, it said. The soldiers were killed in ambushes that targeted military vehicles near the capital and in the northern province of Idlib. The Local Co-ordination Committees (LCC) said 64 people were killed nationwide, including 16 in Damascus suburbs (it does not include army deaths). Saturday was even bloodier, according to the LCC, which reported 98 deaths. MORE