Assad supporters fleeing Damascus for safe havens in Alawite provinces (World Tribune, 13/12/2012)

Leading supporters of the regime of Syrian President Bashar
Assad have been relocating to the Alawite-dominated coast of the
Mediterranean.
Diplomatic sources said hundreds of regime officials were sending their
families out of Damascus to the Alawite-dominated provinces along the
Mediterranean. They said the officials, including aides to Assad, have
concluded that Damascus was no longer safe from a Sunni rebel takeover.

“It’s too dangerous for civilians to travel anymore in Damascus, and the
feeling is that regime officials and their families were being monitored by
rebel units,” a source said.
[On Dec. 12, the New York Times reported that Assad’s military fired
more than six Scud B ballistic missiles toward rebel strongholds. The
newspaper, quoting a U.S. official, said the missiles were fired from
Damascus toward rebel targets in northern Syria.]
The sources said the exodus from Damascus began in mid-2012. But they
said the flow of Assad supporters, most of them Alawites,
accelerated over the last month amid heavy fighting between the Syrian
military and rebel squads.
Members of Assad’s family have not been seen in months, the sources
said. They said Assad’s wife and family were believed to be either abroad or
around the Syrian port of Tartous, operated by the Russian Navy.
Assad’s younger brother, Maher, has not been seen in public since a
rebel bombing of national security headquarters in Damascus in July 2012. The sources said
Assad’s sister and her family were now living in the United Arab Emirates.
For his part, the sources said, Assad was working from his presidential
palace on Mount Qassioun, protected by the elite Republican
Guard. They said the president was no longer directing the daily war against
the rebels.
“There are rumors that he is emotionally shattered and waiting for the
end,” a Western intelligence source said.
The source said Maher was directing the war against the rebels despite
assertions by the opposition that he died in August 2012. Maher, the source
said, was playing a leading role in the regime along with his cousin Ramzi
Makhlouf.
“There are about five people who run the military campaign on a daily
basis,” the source said.
The diplomats said Turkey has played a major role in training and
equipping the rebels, many of them believed linked to or inspired by Al
Qaida. They said the rebel squads have paralyzed life in Damascus through
repeated car bombs and assassinations of Alawites as well as Sunnis linked
to the regime.
A leading target of the rebels has been the Mezzeh neighborhood of
Damascus. Mezzeh has contained the Alawite elite as well as homes of
senior regime supporters.
“The regime is preparing the Latakia province for the next stage,”
another diplomatic source said. “Assad’s people are setting up government
centers and trying to block Sunnis from entering the province without
permission.”

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