Syrian army tanks 311 (R).
(photo credit: REUTERS/Omar Ibrahim)
Syrian forces killed at least 30 people Tuesday and moved into a town near the
Turkish border, an activist group said, despite mounting international
condemnation at the fivemonth- long crackdown that has left an estimated 1,600
The National Organization for Human Rights said most of the
fatalities occurred when troops backed by tanks and armored vehicles overran
villages north of Hama, while four were killed in Binnish, 30 km. from the
border with Turkey.
Matthew Levitt, director of the Stein Program on
Counterterrorism and Intelligence at the Washington Institute for Near East
Policy, said the Assad regime has essentially backed itself into a
“There’s no such thing as dialogue now – no dialogue will satisfy
the Syrian population,” he said. “The regime understands this, and therefore my
fear is it will continue to crack down unless the rest of the military
“The Syrian military continues to have the capability to do a
tremendous amount of damage to its own people. How long that will continue is
unclear. I think the question now is if we see large-scale defections from the
military,” Levitt said.
Despite growing criticism from Western, Arab and
regional states, Assad’s forces also pursued an offensive in the eastern city of
Deir al-Zor, residents said.
An armored column pushed towards the center
of Deir al- Zor on Tuesday, with troops storming houses and making arrests in
the provincial capital of an oil region bordering Iraq’s Sunni heartland, a
“They are now about one kilometer from
When they finish with one district, they move to another,” said
Another resident said on Monday 65 people had been killed
since tanks and armored vehicles barreled into the city, 400 km. northeast of
Damascus on Sunday.
The British-based Syrian Observatory of Human Rights
said among the dead were a mother and her two children, an elderly woman and a
Syria has expelled most independent media since the revolt began,
making it hard to confirm accounts.
Syrian authorities have denied that
any Deir al-Zor assault took place. The official state news agency said “not a
single tank has entered Deir al- Zor” and reports of tanks in the city were “the
work of provocateur satellite channels.” The authorities say they have faced
attacks since the protests erupted in March, blaming armed saboteurs for
civilian deaths and accusing them of killing 500 security
State television broadcast footage on Sunday of mutilated
bodies floating in the Orontes river in Hama, saying 17 police had been ambushed
and killed in the central Syrian city.
The official SANA news agency said
on Monday the military was starting to pull out of Hama after it said it had
helped restore order. Residents said there were still tanks in parts of the city
and security forces were making arrests.
About 1,500 people were detained
in Hama’s Jarajima district and troops killed three civilians, the Observatory
Activists say at least 130 people were killed in Hama, where
Assad’s father crushed an armed Islamist uprising in 1982, and one group has put
the death toll at over 300.
Like most of Syria, ruled by Assad’s minority
Alawite family, Hama and Deir al-Zor are mainly Sunni cities, and the crackdowns
there resonate with Sunnis, who form the majority in the region and govern most