The bomb blast that killed three members of the Syrian regime's inner sanctum on Wednesday is being touted as the most significant strike against President Bashar al-Assad since the uprising began.
The detonation, which is being reported as both a suicide blast by a rebel fighter and as an explosive placed in the at the scene by a member of the regime, ripped through the national security council in al-Rawda, Damascus.
Both the Free Syrian Army and the Liwa al-Islam have claimed responsibility.
Regardless of who is behind the attack, the blast shows is that the regime, which has shown a collective defiance despite 16 months of bloody rebellion, could finally be unravelling under internal pressure from its opponents.
The bombing killed the President’s brother in law, Assef Shawkat, the man widely regarded as the mastermind behind the government’s brutal crackdown.
Pictured in 2000, Syrian President Bashar Assad, right, his brother Maher, center, and brother-in-law Major General Assef Shawkat, left
The country’s defence minister, Daoud Rajiha, was also killed, as was former defence minister Hasan Turkmani. Maher Assad, the president’s brother and the leader of the renowned 4th Armoured Division, reportedly sustained injuries.
The attack follows the recent defection of the country’s former ambassador to Iraq, Nawaf Fares, who fled the country, carrying with him worrying overtures of Syria’s chemical stockpile, a cache that, according to Fares, Assad would show no hesitation in using should he be corned.
A senior Republican Guard commander also recently defected, while rumours suggest further high-profile desertions are imminent.
Global reaction to the bombing has been swift. Foreign Secretary William Hague said the situation in Syria “is clearly deteriorating”, while US defence chief Leon Panetta expressed “concern" over the escalation in violence.
Russia's foreign minister, Sergei Lavrov, said on Wednesday that a "decisive battle" was underway over Syria's future, while adding that Moscow would not agree to a new UN draft resolution threatening further sanctions should Assad not comply with a UN-backed peace initiative.
Following the attack, Syrian state TV remained defiant, suggesting that "terrorists" backed by the west were responsible, while the army issued at statement that said the country was "more determined more than ever to confront all forms of terrorism and chop off any hand that harms national security".
Despite the regime's seeming unwavering resolve, Wednesday's bombing alongside the recent defections indicates that the long reign of the Assad and his Alawite cohorts may finally be coming to an end.
09/09/2012 12:25 PM EDT
Syria Blasts Aleppo By Air
09/05/2012 7:50 AM EDT
Syrian City In Flames
08/25/2012 1:45 PM EDT
Lebanese Pilgrim Freed
Hussein Ali Omar, 60, one of 11 Lebanese Shiite pilgrims that Syrian rebels have been holding for three months in Syria, hugs his mother, right, upon arrival at his house in the southern suburb of Beirut, Lebanon, 2012. Syrian rebels freed Omar on Saturday in a move aimed at easing cross-border tensions after a wave of abductions of Syrian citizens in Lebanon. The Shiite pilgrims were abducted May 22 after crossing into Syria from Turkey on their way to Lebanon. (AP Photo/Hussein Malla)
08/24/2012 12:22 PM EDT
This image made from video and released by Shaam News Network and accessed Thursday, Aug. 23, 2012, purports to show the funeral of children in Daraya, near Damascus, Syria. Syrian troops backed by tanks and helicopters broke into a Damascus suburb on Thursday following two days of shelling and intense clashes as part of a widening offensive by President Bashar Assad's forces to seize control of parts of the capital and surrounding areas from rebel fighters, activists said. At least 15 people were killed in the offensive on Daraya, only a few miles (kilometers) southwest of Damascus. (AP Photo/Shaam News Network SNN via AP video)
08/24/2012 11:05 AM EDT
Lebanon Sees Heaviest Clashes In Months
Clashes between Assad supporters and opponents of the Syrian regime killed two people in Lebanon on Friday, the Associated Press reports. 17 people were injured.
The AP gives more context:
Syria was in virtual control of its smaller neighbor for many years, posting tens of thousands of troops in Lebanon, before withdrawing under pressure in 2005. Even without soldiers on the ground, Syria remains influential, and its civil war has stirred longstanding tensions that have lain under Lebanon's surface.
Read more on HuffPost World.
08/24/2012 11:02 AM EDT
A Sunni gunman fires a gun during clashes that erupted between pro and anti-Syrian regime gunmen in the northern port city of Tripoli, Lebanon, Friday, Aug. 24, 2012. The latest round of fighting first erupted on Monday in northern Lebanon and at least 15 have been killed in Tripoli this week and more than 100 have been wounded in fighting that is a spillover from Syria's civil war. (AP Photo/Hussein Malla)
08/24/2012 11:00 AM EDT
Refugee Numbers Soar
@ KenRoth :
UN reports 200,000 #Syria refugees, 30,000 in past week alone. Many more internally displaced not counted. http://t.co/BaM6u59j
08/23/2012 2:00 PM EDT
Syrian boy Musataf Alhafiz, 11, who fled his home with his family due to fighting between the Syrian army and the rebels, carries his brother Saif, 9 months, while he and others take refuge at the Bab Al-Salameh border crossing, in hopes of entering one of the refugee camps in Turkey, near the Syrian town of Azaz, Thursday, Aug. 23, 2012. Thousands of Syrians who have been displaced by the country's civil war are struggling to find safe shelter while shelling and airstrikes by government forces continue. (AP Photo/Muhammed Muheisen)
08/23/2012 12:09 PM EDT
Heaviest Bombardment This Month
Helicopter gunships shelled Damascus on Wednesday as Syrian security forces intensified their assault on the capital. Activists report that at least 47 people were killed.
"The whole of Damascus is shaking with the sound of shelling," a woman in the neighborhood of Kfar Souseh told Reuters.
Read more on HuffPost World.