June 28, 2012
DEBKAfile, citing Western intelligence sources, reports Thursday, June 28, that the Republican Guard battalion commander charged with the Syrian president’s security is keeping Bashar Assad shut away in his “Unity” palace. Assad and his family may not leave the building without the commander’s permission under an order current since the second half of last week. It is not clear to whom the commander defers in this case and who in fact actually determines whether Assad can come or go.
Asked by DEBKAfile if an element in the Republican Guard ordered the palace placed under siege to prevent the president and his family fleeing, those Western sources replied that the situation could be described as a “partial siege” which is constantly expanding. They added, in response to another question about the Syrian ruler’s freedom of movement, that neither Assad nor members of his family are able to leave the palace to go anywhere and they are aware of the restrictions placed on their movements.
“Because of the partial siege and these restrictions,” said those intelligence sources, “Assad and his wife are both in very low spirits and the atmosphere inside the palace is very bleak.”
The video clips showing the Syrian president and his wife Asma happily playing badminton in the palace grounds were released this week by the regime’s propaganda arm – apparently to belie the rumors spreading in Damascus about the first family’s virtual imprisonment in their own palace.