Syrian civil war reaches the outskirts of Damascus

On Sunday, security forces launched a major assault to reclaim suburbs just a short drive from the city center that had fallen under the sway of rebel soldiers fighting under the banner of the Free Syrian Army.

The sound of gunfire and shelling from a string of suburbs on the eastern edge of the city could clearly be heard in several central neighborhoods, residents said, bringing perilously close a conflict that had until recently been dismissed as a mostly rural, provincial phenomenon from which Damascus, President Bashar al-Assad’s stronghold, would remain immune…

With the crisis closing in on the capital, a siege mentality is starting to take hold. Roads leading out of Damascus no longer are deemed safe because of the threat of ambush, and stories of bandits stalking the hills surrounding the city further add to the anxiety.

“We are surrounded,” said a prominent Syrian journalist, who asked not to be named because of the sensitivity of the subject. “We can’t drive north. We can’t drive south. We can only go west, to Lebanon.”