Just a few days after a bomb exploded at the very heart of Syrian power, the UN voted to extend its observer mission in Syria for what it calls a final 30 days.
"For some time now, the rebels have been taking over the areas but not being able to hold them ... but the battle that came to Damascus ... was a testing phase .... The rebels decided that they would start to test the mettle of this regime and the regime now has reacted ferociously. There is coherence in this regime, and ... we are likely to see a very long battle ahead."
Salman Shaikh, director of the Brookings Doha Center
The step has been taken after many objections and vetoes and this extension will be the last, unless there is a marked decrease in violence.
Russia too called for an extension but also vetoed a resolution calling for sanctions.
There are 300 UN monitors in the country, but the UN had suspended its work as violence escalated in an uprising that has now been raging on for 16 months.
On Friday, fierce fighting broke out in Aleppo, just two days after an attack that killed four senior members of Bashar al-Assad's government.
Free Syrian Army fighters say they have taken control of the villages of Azzaz and Manbij in Aleppo province.
A major intelligence figure, Hisham Ikhtyar, died on Friday from wounds received in Wednesday's bombing which also killed three other members of Assad's inner circle.
"There's a very long and bloody road ahead. The events of last week were very dramatic and certainly the regime was struck a grievous blow. And the arrival of the armed struggle in Damascus and indeed now Aleppo, are setbacks but by no means the end of the regime."
- Alan George, an author on Syria
Ikhtyar was national security chief and prior to that, head of Syria's intelligence agency between 2001 and 2005. He is believed to have led much of the crackdown against protesters.
The killing of Assad's crucial aids is what spurred the Free Syrian Army's current wave of momentum across the country. And although those deaths were a blow to the government, al-Assad's forces are now striking back.
So now that the battle has arrived in Damascus, is it a sign that the war is moving towards a resolution? And if the capital falls to the opposition, then will the president and the regime fall as well?
Inside Syria, with presenter Stephen Cole, discusses with guests: Elias Hanna, a retired Lebanese army general; Alan George, a senior associate member of Saint Anthony College at Oxford University and author on Syria; and Salman Shaikh, the director of the Brookings Doha Center.
"Upon arriving [in] Syria, first of all I will ensure that the mission is in a position to use in the best way these 30 days that I consider not as the days of the last chance, but as a demonstration of the concern of international community, even though the way this concern are different from one member state to another, indeed, there is a concern because people are suffering in Syria. So this will be let's say my orientation to use in the best way this very short period of time."
General Babacar Gaye, UN military adviser
FACTS ABOUT THE SYRIAN CONFLICT
- Russia's envoy to France suggested Bashar al-Assad was prepared to step down
- Damascus denied suggestion President Assad was prepared to resign
- UN security council approved extension of observer mission by 30 days
- Former intelligence chief Ikhtiyar injured in blast died on Friday
- Government forces launch attacks on rebel positions in capital Damascus
- State TV: Government forces caught rebels and cleared several neighbourhoods
- Iraq says it will not open its borders to Syrians fleeing from violence
- UN warns of a refugee crisis as Syrians escape to nearby countries
- 30,000 Syrians said to have fled to Lebanon over the past 48 hours
- Soldiers backed by helicopters and tanks recaptured Midan district
- Activists say new offensive launched in other areas of Damascus
- Activists: more than 200 people killed on Friday alone
- Activists said 310 people were killed across Syria on Thursday
- Bombings in Damascus killed four senior officials in Assad's government
- Fighters took over a Syrian border crossing near Iraqi town of Qaim
- Iraq: Syrian security forces remain in control of two border crossings
Source: Al Jazeera