A potential breaking point in the tragic saga of the Syrian uprising: the rebels from the Free Syrian Army seem to have taken the fight right to the doorstep of President Bashar al-Assad's villa in central Damascus. It's been the third day of unprecedented clashes in several neighbourhoods just next to the city center, an area of several square miles where all the government buildings are located.
The BBC reported gunfire in a street just next to Syria's parliament, as rebel spokesmen declared a "war of liberation" in the capital.
Is this it? Are we seeing, after months of protracted violence in provincial towns, the final rebel push to overrun the very nerve centre of Assad's regime? As always, the information is sketchy, and I'd say don't hold your breath just yet. Russia Today TV channel has confirmed gunfire and blasts close to the city center but says that the level of violence seems far from the final battle promised by the rebels.
The government forces are now deploying tanks and helicopter gunships across the city, and I can't find any evidence that the rebels have either the numbers or the weapons to sustain the assault. This New York Times piece reported just a few days ago that FSA commanders struggled to obtain ammunition, let alone more advanced weapons to engage mechanized units . Unless there is a simultaneous uprising in the military or mass defections of troops, this won't be the endgame.
But the events of the past three days will nevertheless shake the regime, which can no longer pretend that the uprising is limited to provincial backwaters, leaving Assad's supporters to wonder whether their man can keep control of his own backyard. The symbolic significance can't be overstated, even if the rebels are eventually pushed back to the capital's suburbs.
You can follow the latest developments in Damascus with live updates on The Guardian's website, Al Jazeera's live blog, and Lebanon Now website. And, of course, come back to Middle East Issues for more analysis.