Sources within the Syrian opposition said that the Free Syrian Army forces managed to prevent the escape of the first lady of Syria and additional relatives through Damascus airport.
According to the Egyptian daily, the sources claimed that Asma Assad, her children, Bashar Assad's mother and his cousin were all in a convoy on the way to the airport when rebel forces under the command of a former senior officer in the Syrian army, blocked the their path.
After heavy exchanges of fire, the presidential security forces managed to get the convoy back to the presidential palace. The opposition sources alleged that Assad's security forces pursued the deserter general, Mahmoud Halouf, former head of the Palestine branch of Syrian intelligence.
The general's unit, all former soldiers who deserted with him, 300 in total, said that when they saw the convoy the believed it was an attempt to smuggle senior officials out of the country – which is why they blocked the convoy's path.
Meanwhile, Armored forces loyal to President Assad took control on Sunday of eastern suburbs of Damascus that had fallen into opposition control after two days of bombardment and fighting with rebels, activists said.
"The Free Syrian Army has made a tactical withdrawal. Regime forces have re-occupied the suburbs and started making house to house arrests," Kamal, one of the activists, said by phone from the eastern Ghouta area on the edge Damascus.
He was referring to army defectors loosely grouped under the Free Syrian Army.
If the report about Asma Assad's attempted escape is true, it would not be the first time during the Arab Spring that relatives of a failing ruler find a way to escape. Last August Muammar Gaddafi's wife and three of his children managed to escape war-torn Libya and reach Algeria. Gaddafi was killed not long after.
Reuters contributed to this report
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