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Back from Syria, Reporter David Enders Says Assad Regime Crumbling to “Grassroots Rebellion”

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As the battle for Damascus rages on, we’re joined by reporter David Enders, special correspondent for McClatchy, based in Beirut, Lebanon. He has been to Syria four times this year, most recently in June, and is returning there shortly. “The [Syrian] government [is] crumbling under the weight of a massive rebellion. It simply can’t put it down,” Enders says. “Without the aid of the international community, Syrians are largely doing it themselves.” [includes rush transcript]

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This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: We’re staying on Syria. We’re joined by reporter David Enders. David Enders is a special correspondent for McClatchy, based in Beirut, Lebanon. He’s been to Syria four times this year, most recently in June, returning to Lebanon and Syria shortly.

Dave, what is your assessment of what’s happening in Syria, the significance of the attack yesterday, the killing of the inner circle, and the situation on the ground, as you listened to our guest from Damascus right now on Democracy Now! audio stream?

DAVID ENDERS: Well, I think what’s happening is, is this is really the trajectory of things for probably the last six months. We’ve seen the rebellion grow in numbers and as far as its organizational capability. And they’ve attempted to strike at Assad and his inner circle multiple times. This is the first time they’ve been successful. We’ve seen this week the fighting officially move to Damascus. For the first time, we’ve seen the government actually shell neighborhoods inside the city proper, as it’s done during fierce fighting in some of the suburbs over the last six months and in parts of the country, like Homs, further outside Damascus. But I think what we’re seeing is just the government crumbling under the weight of a massive rebellion. It simply can’t put it down.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: David, I’d like to ask you about this report that the Israeli intelligence chief told a closed session of the Israeli parliament that they believe that there is an increasing number of jihadists and al-Qaeda activists who have begun to move into Syria and that, from the Israeli intelligence viewpoint, they fear radical Islam gaining the upper hand in—within the Syrian rebellion.

DAVID ENDERS: Well, that’s been a concern from outside Syria since the beginning of the rebellion. And as the borders become more porous and the government becomes weaker, the potential that people with various agendas will infiltrate the country does increase. What I’ve seen in my time amongst the rebels is that there are people who code as conservative, religious Islamists, there are people who code as jihadis, but the—what’s happening is people are fighting to bring down the government. If there are splits in the rebel ranks between people who see a more Islamic-based government or more religious-based government as opposed to a more secular government, we’re going to see that manifest itself after—after the government falls and as Syrians try to decide what the government looks like after Assad. I mean, I’ve seen very few foreign fighters. I haven’t met any personally. I’ve talked to a bunch of people who have, you know, said that they’re there, or talked to leaders of groups who have confirmed that they’re present. But, I mean, the uprising is made up of Syrians who are fighting to topple their own government.

AMY GOODMAN: Dave Enders, I wanted to play a clip of the video report you did for Dan Rather’s show, Dan Rather Reports, that discusses the ongoing conflict in Syria between forces loyal to Bashar al-Assad and the opposition forces seeking to drive him from power. Let’s go to that clip.

DAN RATHER: It’s a hot night in early June. Rebel fighters are preparing for battle in a rural outpost in central Syria. They load homemade bombs, made of propane tanks and fertilizer, into a car that will bring them closer to enemy lines. A boy, too young to fight, watches as the rebels amass arms for a fifth day of fighting. Their goal? Eject a group of Syrian soldiers from the center of a town called Kfar Zeita.

REBEL ARMY MEMBER: [translated] With this, we are attacking Bashar’s army. They are attacking civilians and children. We are going to [bleep] Bashar’s mother with this.

DAN RATHER: The town is on the border of an area that today is largely controlled by the rebels. It’s just after dawn the next morning. The streets of Kfar Zeita are almost completely deserted. All but a few civilians have fled the town. Rebel fighters planted their bombs a few hours before and are now taking their positions.

REBEL FIGHTER: [translated] The Syrian armed forces are planning to raid this town. We’ve heard they have about 40 vehicles. We’re planning this for them.

DAN RATHER: Soon, a firefight begins. The rebels intend to stand their ground.

AMY GOODMAN: Dan Rather narrating Dave Enders’ report from the ground in Syria. As you listened to our guest on the ground in Damascus talking about no intervention but support for the people fighting against the regime, actual arms support, your thoughts on who is doing this, and how common is that call, Dave?

DAVID ENDERS: Well, I think that most Syrians, most people in the opposition, armed and unarmed, gave up on the idea of international military intervention some months ago. And what you’re seeing in that footage with those guys planting bombs is essentially the contingency plan. Without the aid of the international community, Syrians are largely doing it themselves. This has become a very widespread, in many parts of the country, grassroots insurgency or rebellion, or they call it a revolution.

And so, as I was listening to the woman from Damascus, what concerns me most is the fact that these neighborhoods where the fighting is taking place are places that are already overburdened, overcrowded with refugees from all over the country. And one thing that really struck me as I was in Syria was that we are just not able to see the extent of the crisis that is occurring there with regards to internal displacement, especially. And so, you know, I noticed a number of people yesterday saying, “Well, where are people going to go now?” And I think that’s—that’s a very important question. What’s happening there, it’s just extremely serious, and aid is not reaching many of these people.

AMY GOODMAN: Dave Enders, I want to thank you for being with us, special correspondent for McClatchy, based in Beirut, Lebanon, has been in Syria a number of times this past year, returning shortly.

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