Dread grips Damascus as US strike countdown begins

  • Updated: Aug 28, 2013 12:11 IST

A heavy sense of dread pervades Damascus, as Washington and its allies mull military action after alleged chemical weapons attacks by the Syrian regime outside the capital last week reportedly killed hundreds of people.

Jihan is convinced the first US strike on Syria would hit Mazze military airport near her Damascus home, and has already packed her family’s bags, ready to flee the capital.

They’ll hit Mazze, I’m sure; the target makes sense,” the young mother said of the facility, which that President Bashar al-Assad himself uses to travel within Syria.

Traffic in downtown Damascus, already diminished since the outbreak of the 29-month civil war, has thinned conspicuously.

People only venture out for urgent business or to gather supplies. Food sellers in the market have witnessed the same sense of panic.

“Lots of people come to stock up in the morning and after work,” said Mohammed, whose stall sells rice, olive oil and pasta.

But for Michel, a cosmetics shop-owner who lives in the mostly Christian quarter of Tijara, rebel mortar fire on the centre of the capital is far worse than any airstrike by the West could be. Others profess their sometimes apocalyptic views on the fallout from a US strike.

“If they strike, Russia and Iran will help us,” said Abu Ahmad, a baker.

“It’ll be the Third World War and the fire won’t go out.”

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