Syria’s endgame in sight as rebels advance

Story highlights

Stepped up fighting in Damascus signifies the beginning of end, one Syrian says

Rebel gains in past month: Taking oil fields, downing aircraft, getting weapons

Observers: Climate has changed in Syria, the war may be wrapping up

CNN  — 

Hell came to Damascus months ago. It’s loud and scary in Syria’s capital. But now, this week, something seems different.

It feels worse. And that makes Leena feel better.

The Damascus resident, who sides with the rebellion, says it means the forces fighting to oust President Bashar al-Assad are winning.

“The rebels are winning, can you see?” she insisted during a Skype call Wednesday. “The regime feels threatened. They are scared. You can feel it here. It’s so tense.”

Leena, a former teacher in her 30s, told CNN that she’s hearing more helicopters hovering over her home this week. Traffic near the presidential palace is more hectic. Checkpoints are more intense. Blink, she said, and the price of gas goes higher.

U.S. spearheads diplomatic push on Syria

But the chaos, the uncertainty and booms of shells landing that keep her awake at night, now fill her with hope.

Damascus is the seat of al-Assad’s power. Rebel forces seem to be fighting harder than ever in the capital and, according to analysts and on-the-ground observers like Leena, al-Assad is acting like a boxer who fears his own knock-out is coming.

“The worse it gets now, the more we know the rebels will win,” she said. “We welcome this fight. It means we will wake up from this nightmare.”

In the past several weeks, the rebels – once disorganized, dysfunctional and poorly armed – have made major strategic and psychological gains.

They have seized control of key oil fields and territory in important areas of the north. They have audaciously fired on the Damascus airport and downed several military aircraft.

Syrian rebels challenge al-Assad’s command of the skies

Rebels pounced on a key Air Force headquarters outside the northern city of Aleppo, seizing a large cache of weapons, and leaving the regime so desperate it bombed its own bases to prevent the rebels from getting any more.

It was another blow to Syria’s army, which experts say is spent, stretched thin by desertions and defections.

Syrian rebels in Damascus say they are more organized, better armed with heavy weaponry, and ready to “cleanse Syria” of government forces, Free Syrian Army spokesman Abu Qutada told CNN.

He said the rebels have “started the ending battle” of the war.

“We are conducting significant military operation inside the capital Damascus, this is a new stage,” Abu Qutada said Wednesday via Skype from the Damascus suburbs. “This is the decisive stage of our fight.”