Assad asserts more control over Damascus

DAMASCUS -- The Syrian regime of Bashar Assad is close to controlling all of Damascus for the first time in about five years. Hundreds of rebel fighters have evacuated the last part of Syria's capital city held by the opposition.

CBS News correspondent Seth Doane says there are reminders everywhere that President Assad is in control in the heart of the city. For a regime that does not shy away from propaganda, one of the biggest victories may be closer than ever: controlling not just the center of Damascus, but the outskirts, too.

Assad's army has been bombarding the suburbs of Damascus -- destroying parts of his own capital to root out the opposition.

Those who weren't killed were given the chance to surrender. Thousands of rebels and civilians boarded buses near Damascus over the weekend, destined for other opposition-held areas.

An estimated 400,000 people are believed to have been killed in this war.

It makes scenes from the main souk in Damascus, just about four miles from the front line, seem surprisingly normal. Residents there may have security, but the war has still affected them.

Abu Mohammed has been selling tamarind juice out of an elaborate contraption for nine years, and prices have skyrocketed. 

"The fighting also affects us psychologically," he admitted. "But we are strong… as long as our leader Assad is strong."

Nearby, an ice cream parlor was packed in the 90-degree heat. As Syrians indulged under a framed photo of Assad, student Wael al-Asfar spoke of his support for the leader.

syrian-ice-cream-and-assad-620.jpg

Citizens in Damascus enjoy ice cream, under the eyes of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

CBS News

"Maybe Americans think that all the people here [are] under the siege or under attack or under rockets or missiles," he told Doane. "It's not like that."

At least "it's not like that" in central Damascus -- and those are the scenes the regime wants to get out: stability and security, at least where Assad has control.