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Russia eyes Syria evacuation as rebels take Damascus district

Published: December 18, 2012
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Source: Reuters

Russia sent warships to the Mediterranean to prepare a potential evacuation of its citizens from Syria, a Russian news agency said on Tuesday, a sign President Bashar al-Assad's key ally is worried about rebel advances now threatening even the capital.

Moscow acted a day after insurgents waging a 21-month-old uprising obtained a possible springboard for a thrust into Damascus by seizing the Yarmouk Palestinian camp, an urban zone just 2 miles from the heart of the city, activists said.

The Syrian opposition has scored significant military and diplomatic gains in recent weeks, capturing several army installations across Syria and securing formal recognition from Western and Arab states for its new coalition.

Despite those rebel successes, bloodshed has been rising with more than 40,000 killed in a movement that began as peaceful street protests but has transformed into civil war.

Assad's pivotal allies have largely stood behind him and Iran, believed to be his main bankroller in the conflict, said there were no signs of Assad was on the verge of being toppled.

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