U.N.-Arab League Syria envoy Lakhdar Brahimi says the situation in Syria is deteriorating rapidly and risks getting considerably worse, if no political solution is found to the conflict.
The military situation in Syria continued to evolve rapidly Sunday, as U.N. envoy Lakhdar Brahimi repeated a warning to the international community that Syria is facing a further bloodbath.
He says the situation is awful, if not very, very awful, and it is deteriorating exponentially. He warns 100,000 more Syrians could die if the conflict lasts for another year.
Speaking in Cairo, the veteran U.N. envoy stressed he believes the only solution to the conflict is a political settlement between the warring parties.
He says that there are only two alternatives in Syria: either a political solution or hell. He warns that Syria will not break apart into mini-states as happened in Yugoslavia, but into warring statelets as in Somalia.
More than 350 deaths were reported Saturday. Arab media say the mainly Sunni Deir-al-Balbah region of the flashpoint city of Homs was recaptured by Syrian government forces, amid a heavy loss of life.
Free Syrian Army fighters transport ammunition which was seized from government forces' Wadi al-Daif military base at Maaret al-Numan, in the Idlib governorate in the northwest of Syria, December 29, 2012.
Witness reports elsewhere indicate government troops have withdrawn elite units from several Damascus suburbs, abandoning them to rebel fighters. Rebel fighters have also reportedly gained ground close to Syria's two international airports in Damascus and Aleppo.
American University of Beirut Political Science Professor Hilal Khashan says troops loyal to President Bashar al-Assad appear to be abandoning areas around Damascus. He says they are retreating to a coastal enclave heavily populated by Assad's Alawite minority.
“Hezbollah and pro-Alawite troops are establishing a corridor in [Lebanon's] northern Bekaa, and the outskirts of Homs will become the boundaries of the Alawite autonomous area," said Khashan. "[Saturday], they over-ran an area in Homs region, so it is clear that the regime is focusing on the Alawite enclave area. They have already pulled out seven elite brigades from the greater Damascus area to fight the final battle over there."
Khashan says Russia, Iran and Hezbollah are helping Assad to establish the Alawite autonomous zone, along Syria's coast. In return, he says, Russia hopes to keep control of its naval base in the port city of Tartous.
Syria's Alawite minority enjoyed a brief period of autonomy during the 1920s, during France's League of Nations mandate over Syria. The Alawite enclave was absorbed into Greater Syria after several years.