debkafile, citing Western intelligence sources, reports Thursday, June 28, that the Republican Guard battalion commander charged with the Syrian president's security isassad 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.

In fact, say the sources, ""Inside the palace, Assad and his family are so mistrustful of their immediate circle that food tasters are on hand in to partake in advance of all the food and drink served them." The tasters belong to the elite unit of Syrian military intelligence. They were brought in after at least two attempts by Syrian rebel associates to sneak poisoned food into the palace. It was discovered before causing harm or even death.

"Bashar Assad won't even drink a glass of water unless his personal food taster first swallows at least a quarter of its contents."
It is important to note, said the Western sources, that access to the Assad palace on Mt. Qaisoun on the outskirts of Damascus is gained only through two underground roads which are fortified against aerial bombardment and invisible to spies in the sky. The two roads serve the separate entrance and exit from the palace.
All vehicles using the roads, including supply trucks, belong to Syrian intelligence services. The drivers and porters unloading the vehicles - although intelligence personnel - are all closely watched at all times, starting with detailed inspections when they arrive at the entrance to one of the roads.

The rebels' success in planting poison in one of those closely vetted supply trucks attests to their success in penetrating some of the layers of security protecting the persons of the president and his family.

via debka.com