Both sides in Syria aim for greater casualties

U.N. observers talk to a soldier at a checkpoint in Syria
CBS News

(CBS News) DAMASCUS - There has been a new massacre in Syria, where the Assad regime is out to crush a popular uprising. Activists claim police and pro-government militias killed dozens today in Hama. Twelve days ago, more than 100 people, mostly women and children, were shot and hacked to death in the town of Houla. Vicious fighting has now spread to the capital, Damascus.

Syria's armed opposition groups have always been a motley collection of army defectors and angry volunteers, poorly armed and organized. But there's evidence they're growing more deadly.

A video, posted online by the opposition, of an attack three days ago in Idlib shows the rebel fighters having destroyed Syrian army tanks. But this was not a simple hit-and-run.

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You can see rebels dragging soldiers from the burning vehicles, and taking prisoners. The number of well-organized attacks showing up online recently has grown. As at least one armed group this week said, it will concentrate on attacking military checkpoints, especially in the cities.

Soldiers at the hundreds of checkpoints in and around Damascus are feeling the pressure.

While U.N. military observers visited a makeshift army post in the suburb of Douma yesterday, local residents told CBS News that as soon as dark falls, rebel fighters attack.

The army shoots back, and it's civilians - once again - who are caught in the crossfire.

Until very recently, Damascus, the capital, was a rather surreal bubble of stability and normality. Well, no more. Last night for the first time both explosions and gunfire could be heard from downtown.

People are saying that the Houla massacre marked a turning point, not only in international condemnation of Syria, but also in the amount of violence and how close it's getting to the very heart of the capital. People are really scared. They feel catastrophe is approaching and they just don't know how to sidestep it.

  • Elizabeth Palmer
    Elizabeth Palmer

    Elizabeth Palmer has been a CBS News correspondent since August 2000. She has been based in London since late 2003, after having been based in Moscow (2000-03). Palmer reports primarily for the "CBS Evening News."