Syrian Army’s 4th Division fights in Damascus for Assad regime’s survival

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NICOSIA — These may be the last days in power for Syria’s President Assad.

His powerful and loyal
military is disintegrating, security forces are deserting their posts and
Damascus has the feel of a ghost town.

The brother of President Bashar Assad commands the only
major Army unit that remains effective in battling the Sunni revolt.

Maher, left, and Bahsar Assad. /

Syrian opposition sources said the Syrian Army’s 4th Division has been the only major unit still operating on a daily basis against Sunni rebels. The sources said the division, led by Assad’s younger brother, Maher, was rushed to Damascus to protect the regime in wake of the killing of senior defense officials and commanders.

“Maher’s troops are the only ones who remain effective and motivated,” an opposition source in Damascus said. “The rest are doing little more than protecting themselves.”

The sources said the 4th Division has sent thousands of soldiers as well as T-72 main battle tanks, Mi-24 and 25 attack helicopters to repel the rebel invasion of Damascus. On July 23, infantry units, backed by helicopters and snipers, stormed the Mazeh district of Damascus, home of regime leaders, foreign diplomats as well as Iranian and Russian advisers.

The division was said to have integrated air and ground assets to drive
out rebels from Barzeh and Mazeh. The sources said helicopters were feeding
information on rebel formations to armored units below.

“Troops have stormed the northwestern Barzeh district of Damascus with
tanks and armored personnel carriers,” Rami Abdel Rahman, director of the
opposition Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, said.

Sunni rebels have acknowledged gains by the 4th Division in several
neighborhoods of Damascus. But they said most of the city has been abandoned
by the Assad regime as rebels continue to pour into the Syrian capital. On
July 23, battles between rebels and the army were reported near parliament
and the prime minister’s office.

“The [Syrian] military is still loyal to Assad, despite a very big wave
of defections, and he and his family are still in Damascus,” Israeli
military spokesman Brig. Gen. Yoav Mordechai said.

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