As fighting intensifies in the Syrian capital of Damascus, the issue of Syrian refugees is the top story in many Arab dailies Wednesday.

“The battles return to Damascus and 1.7 million displaced,” reads the headline of Saudi-owned daily A-Sharq Al-Awsat. The number, explains the article, is based on international assessments and represents both internally displaced citizens and refugees who have fled the country.

In a second article, the daily reports a new major offensive by the Free Syrian Army in the capital Damascus. Free Syrian Army commander Riyad Asaad tells the daily that “all means have become legitimate” to retaliate against the atrocities perpetrated by the Assad regime. He adds that the Free Syrian Army is targeting the heads of the Assad regime “wherever they are,” vowing to strike “military bases, barracks, and airports.”

‘Egypt is the only country in the world that followed the US and Israel and cut relations with Iran. This in itself should indicate a problem that requires rethinking’

London-based daily Al-Hayat focuses on a UN Security Council session dedicated to the Syrian refugees Thursday. Diplomats in New York tell the daily that Lakhdar Brahimi, the new international envoy to Syria, is “keeping his cards close to his chest,” refusing to reveal his tactics on engaging Syria.

Meanwhile, Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi tells Reuters that Bashar Assad must step down, calling on Syria’s allies to pressure Assad into doing so.

Qatar-based news channel Al-Jazeera reports that Syrian rebels have managed to surround a Syrian air force base near the northern Syrian city of Idlib Wednesday and destroy 10 helicopters on the ground, out of a total of 20 located in the base.

Morsi’s visit to China and Iran

The diplomatic visit of Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi to China, his third foreign trip since taking office and first to a non-Arab country, is making headlines in Arab news Wednesday. His next stop, Iran, is also big news — no Egyptian president has visited the country since the assassination of President Anwar Sadat in 1981.

London-based daily Al-Quds Al-Arabi reports that Israel, as well as Arab Gulf states, is upset with Morsi for visiting Iran. The visit to Tehran will only last four hours and will not include an Egyptian announcement on renewing diplomatic relations, the article reports. Nevertheless, Egypt has adopted an apologetic approach to the visit, trying not to anger Saudi Arabia, an important Egyptian ally.

Citing Ramzi Ezzedine, Egypt’s Deputy Foreign Ministry, Iranian TV station Al-Alam reported that Egypt will soon upgrade its diplomatic relations with Iran, Egyptian daily Al-Masry Al-Youm reports Wednesday.

The daily goes on to quote Muslim Brotherhood official Essam al-Erian as saying that Morsi’s visit to Iran marks “the beginning of defrosting the official relations between the two countries.”

‘Morsi was forced to make his statements on Syria before arriving in China, knowing full well that the gap in political positions has grown too deep to bridge in such a short visit’

Al-Jazeera dedicates an article to Morsi’s visit to China, asking, “Was Morsi hasty in visiting China?” The station notes that the visit was a success; a series of contracts was signed and Egypt is trying to close its trade deficit with China, in which China is leading by seven billion dollars.

“It is not certain, however, that the visit succeeded in instilling new foundations for the future economic and trade relations [with China], drawing from previous mistakes which harmed many traditional Egyptian industries which have lost out to Chinese merchandise,” claims Al-Jazeera.

“The Egyptian president could also not find the opportunity to present political issues to his Chinese host. He was therefore forced to make his statements on Syria before arriving in China, knowing full well that the gap in political positions has grown too deep to bridge in such a short visit.”

“Visiting Iran is a political obligation,” writes Ismail Fakhrani in an op-ed in establishment Egyptian daily Al-Ahram.

“Egypt is the only country in the world that followed the US and Israel and cut relations with Iran,” writes Fakhrani. “This in itself should indicate a problem that requires rethinking. We must regain our honor and political independence as part of the general revival project which began following the revolution.

Sayid Ali, another Al-Ahram columnist, claims that Morsi’s visit to China and Iran ahead of his visit to the United States in September is a wise move, as it “gives Egypt important negotiating cards.”