President Assad and his family ‘are now living on a warship guarded by the Russians off Syrian coast’

James Rush – Daily Mail Jan 16, 2013

Syrian president Bashar Assad and his family are living on a warship guarded by the Russian navy, according to reports.

The embattled dictator is said to have moved with his family and a select band of aides to the warship off Syria’s coast.

The move, which is said to have come about after the president lost confidence in his own security detail, sees Assad travel by helicopter to Damascus to attend meetings in his presidential palace.

Intelligence sources told the Saudi daily paper al-Watan the president was being protected by Russia, which effectively amounted to political asylum, The Times of Israel has reported.

Al-Watan was told Assad’s fear of advances by the opposition in the capital was one of the reasons why he has moved to the ship.

His current position is also thought to allow a quick evacuation to Moscow if it became necessary.

Russia has remained an ally of the regime since the popular uprising in March 2011, during which time the UN estimates more than 60,000 people have been killed.

Russia also endorsed a speech by Assad last week where he offered an end to the crisis by calling national elections and forming a new government.

In his first public speech in six months last week, the dictator urged Syrians to mobilise in a ‘war to defend the nation.’

His defiant call to arms came in an hour-long speech to cheering loyalists in the opera house in the capital Damascus.

Assad unveiled what he claimed was a peace initiative to end the violent uprising against his rule.

But he declared he would not talk to those he called extremists ‘who only understand the language of terrorism’ or to ‘puppets’ of the West.

Meanwhile, as the death toll continued to grow steadily in Syria, an aid agency working in the conflict zone has said that doctors are being murdered to stop the wounded getting treated.

In a report released by International Rescue Committee’s Commission on Syrian Refugees, they said that partner organisations which provide emergency medical services and supplies say the health care system has been decimated.

Physicians described ‘intimidation, torture and the targeted killing of doctors and other medical staff in retribution for treating the wounded’.

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