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Page last updated at 09:04 GMT, Saturday, 21 July 2012 10:04 UK

Syria: A country 'divided'

A day after opposition fighters seized control of Syria's border crossings with Iraq and Turkey, forces loyal to President Assad appear to have launched an all-out assault on the rebels in Damascus. Government forces are reported to have recaptured the Midan district and to have attacked rebels in the eastern Jubar area. Heavy fighting has also been reported from Syria's second city, Aleppo.

Thousands of Syrian refugees are pouring into neighbouring countries as fighting between government forces and rebels intensifies. The UN refugee agency says up to 30,000 people are reported to have crossed into Lebanon over the past 48 hours. The UN Security Council agreed on Friday to extend its observer mission in Syria for a "final" 30 days.

Journalist and opposition supporter, Malik Al Abdeh, believes that the collapse of authority spells a civil war in Syria.

"I think it is only natural since the Syrian regime has always relied on a sectarian divide and rule policy," he told Today presenter Justin Webb. "You are going to get a fundamental re-alignment of power in the country along sectarian lines in favour of the Sunnis, and very much detrimental to the interests of the Alawites."

Professor of Middle East policy at City University Rosemary Hollis said that "there is no military option open to Nato to control the situation". She added that Syria is beginning to mirror the Lebanese civil war "but on a larger scale".

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