Damascus Holds Its Breath as Syrian Civil War Reaches Its Door

Feb 18, 2013 5:11pm

ABC News’ Terry Moran and his team take a rare and dangerous journey into the embattled capital of Damascus for the special report:  Inside Syria: The Battle for Damascus.

Damascus is quiet tonight — too quiet.

We arrived a few hours ago in this tense and troubled city — 5 million people hunkered down as the terrible war that is tearing this country apart has now arrived in major battles raging in the suburbs.

This war is far from over — and it is far from clear who will win — but we already know who the losers are: the people of this ancient land.

From Beirut, Lebanon, we drove into Syria along a heavily guarded route, passing checkpoint after checkpoint after checkpoint.

It is now a lifeline as Damascus — the stronghold of the government of President Bashar Assad — becomes a city under siege.

Tonight, just a few miles from here, the war raged on.

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Image credit: ABC News

It is a dirty war, in a crucial country.

The chaos engulfing Syria threatens to spill over into Iraq on one side, and Israel and Lebanon on the other. That is a nightmare scenario for the U.S.

The United Nations now estimates that 70,000 people have been killed in the fighting — but no one really knows.

A U.N. commission today called for war-crimes investigations of both sides: Assad’s government, which has sought to crush the rebellion by any means necessary; as well as the rebels, many of whom are increasingly seen by ordinary Syrians as warlords, gangsters and religious fanatics who regularly post videos of beheadings and other atrocities on YouTube.

Syria’s many minorities live in terror of a jihadist takeover of their country.

Before we came here, we visited Christian refugees from Syria who had fled to Beirut.

They said they’d been forced out of their villages by Muslim fundamentalists — ethnically cleansed. They’d supported the rebellion at first, but not now. They have lost their homes, their communities, their way of life.

“We lived freely as Christians,” said one man, putting up Christmas trees and decorations. “But now we are being targeted.”

It is a dirty war with no end in sight.

We have come to this country with the permission of the government, which wants the other side of the story here told.

There is no doubt the rebellion has changed.

Ordinary Syrians increasingly just want the war to stop and now dread the chaos that has been unleashed.

Assad himself seems to know this. The man that the U.S. government has said must go told a group of visitors today: “We are sure we will win.”

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