DAMASCUS - The streets of Damascus remained calm Saturday despite looming U.S. military strikes, with Syria’s defiant government promising to keep state-owned bakeries open 24 hours a day.
Traffic was flowing, and there was no sense of panic as people went about their daily lives despite the resumption of army shelling on rebel-held districts that could be heard about every 15 minutes.
President Bashar Assad has not spoken for a couple of days, but the government has sought to reassure people, through statements on state television, that Syria is ready to retaliate at any moment.
It has even promised that state-owned bakeries will now be open 24 hours a day to help civilians in response to what it calls “foreign aggression.”
State television has been talking about what it calls a planned American-Israeli military campaign, showing pictures of Assad in full military uniform.
On the streets, government posters have been changed to new images that show him as steely and unflappable - Syria’s own commander-in-chief.
However, ordinary Syrians are worried.
They take no comfort in President Barack Obama's reassurances that any military strike would be limited and narrow.
It is has been reported that the army has been moving equipment out of barracks – anything from ‘scud’ missiles and tanks, to computers and furniture. In at least one area of Damascus, they've taken up temporary residence in a mosque, using that as a military facility.
People are worried about how a military strike might work out, whether missiles might go astray, whether some might hit chemical weapons depots, sending clouds of poison gas across this city.
And of course they're worried that the UN inspectors have now gone – their hasty exit adding to apprehension and anxiety that a military strike may now be imminent.
First published August 31 2013, 7:18 AM