Syrian President Bashar al-Assad on Sunday night attempted to smuggle his wife, children, and other family members out of the country but they were turned away by a brigade of army defectors, according to a report from Egyptian daily Al-Masry-Al-Youm.
A rebel source who was not named told the daily that “official vehicles were seen heading toward the airport in Damascus,” but a brigade of army defectors, also known as the Free Syrian Army, fired a salvo at the convoy and forced it to turn back.
The forces claim that Assad’s wife, Asma Assad, who graduated from King’s College in London, attempted to leave with her children in the convoy. Apparently, the convoy was also carrying the president’s mother and cousin.
Syrian security forces were able to escort the convoy to safety, the Al-Masry-Al-Youm reported. There were no reports of injuries or deaths.
Army defectors and the Syrian army engaged in heavy battles in Damascus suburbs over the weekend, with state-run media reporting that security forces retook several suburbs. Local activist groups said that dozens of people were killed across the country, with many dead in the outlying areas of Damascus.
State-run media also said that rebels blew up a gas pipeline in Daraa, as the uprising against Assad’s regime turns from peaceful to violent. The United Nations estimates that 5,400 people have been killed by violence since peaceful demonstrations began in March.
At least 2,000 Syrian security forces stormed the Damascus suburb on Sunday. Rebels said they pulled out and retreated.“The Free Syrian Army has made a tactical withdrawal. Regime forces have reoccupied the suburbs and started making house-to-house arrests,” an activist who identified himself as Kamal told Al-Arabiya television.