Assef Shawkat

Esther Bintliff

The deaths of three of President al-Assad’s most senior security officials in a bomb attack on Wednesday could prove a turning point in the Syrian crisis. The World blog looks at Bashar’s inner circle – and how long they will remain by his side. 

James Blitz

 BULENT KILIC/AFP/GettyImages

Protestors step on a picture of Bashar al-Assad during a rally on May 31. (Bulent Kilic/AFP/GettyImages)

The bomb attack that has killed Syria’s defence minister and President Bashar al-Assad’s brother-in-law is by far the most serious blow the Syrian regime has suffered since the rebellion began sixteen months ago.

Most security experts and Syria watchers do not believe it spells the immediate end of President Assad. He will fight on, knowing he retains considerable military force to throw at the rebellion.

But today’s events prompt three big questions that will gradually come to be answered in the days and weeks ahead.