Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, facing the gravest crisis of his 11-year rule,
deployed the army for the first time in nearly two weeks of protests after 12
people were killed in the northwest port city of Latakia.
died in pro-democracy protests in the southern city of Deraa and nearby towns
over the last week in violence the government had blamed on armed
Assad’s looming downfall?
YouTube provides a glimpse into unrest in Syria
Assad adviser Bouthaina Shaaban told Al-Jazeera that Syria’s
four-decade old emergency law would be lifted, but she did not give a timetable
or offer any more details. Officials said Assad – who has made no direct public
comment since protests began – would address the nation Sunday night.
Israeli Foreign Ministry official expressed concern Syria has enlisted help from
Iran and Hezbollah in cracking down on the protests, Army Radio reported
According to the official, Syrian protesters said they had heard
some of the security forces employed in dispersing the protests speaking
The official reportedly said he expects to see further signs of
Iranian involvement over the coming days.
“Syria is an Iranian asset, and
it is clear Iran is afraid its investments will go down the drain. It has
therefore allowed for greater involvement than in other Arab countries,” he
Deputy Galilee and Negev Development Minister Ayoub Kara said
Sunday that should Assad attack the Druse population in Syria, Israel would not
sit with its “hands folded.”
Kara, a Likud lawmaker who is Druse, said in
a statement he is concerned Assad could “attack the Druse in Aleppo as was done
in the past. He needs to know that in that case we will not sit with our hands
Kara’s comments came on the same day that Prime Minister
Binyamin Netanyahu asked his ministers at the weekly cabinet meeting not to
speak publicly about the situation in Syria. If they must do so, he said, they
should first coordinate their message with the Prime Minister’s Office or
One government official said it was clear that Kara was “expressing his own opinion, and not that of the
Kara said he was already hearing support for the Syrian
opposition among Golan Druse who “for years were afraid to express opposition to
the Assad regime.”
US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said on Sunday
that the United States deplored the bloodshed in Syria but a Libyastyle
intervention should not be expected.
“Each of these situations is
unique,” Clinton said on the CBS News program Face the Nation. “We deplore the
violence in Syria, we call as we have on all of these governments ... to
be responding to their people’s needs, not to engage in violence, permit
peaceful protests and begin a process of economic and political reform,” she
Andrew Tabler, a Syria expert at the Washington Institute for Near
East Policy, wrote in a policy paper released Thursday that the US needs to
pursue a more muscular course on Syria.
“The Obama administration has
based its Syria policy on facilitating peace talks between Syria and Israel,” he
wrote. “The time has come for Washington to develop a hybrid policy in two
senses: first, by denouncing human rights abuses in Syria as well as promoting
the peace process, and second, by introducing negative incentives into the mix
of engaging Syria in the peace process. More than anything, this week’s protests
show that Assad only truly changes tack when he is under pressure and facing
“By holding the Assad regime accountable for its commitments,
Washington has the best hope for influencing Assad’s domestic policies for the
better, avoiding further bloodshed, and fostering a real peace between Syria and
Israel,” Tabler wrote.
The state-run SANA news agency reported Sunday
that Foreign Minister Walid Moallem told visiting Chinese officials that Syria
is committed to achieving a “just and comprehensive peace” in the Middle
Without mentioning Israel by name, the news agency reported that an
agreement between the neighboring countries must be based on “international
resolutions, the Madrid Conference terms of reference and the landfor- peace
The agency also reported that Bahrain’s king had phoned Assad
to express the support of his country – itself in the throes of months of
sectarian unrest – for Syria’s efforts “in the face of the conspiracy targeting
its security and stability.”
In another step to placate protesters,
Syrian authorities released a lawyer, Diana Jawabra, along with 15 others who
were arrested for taking part in a silent protest demanding the release of the
children responsible for anti-government graffiti in Deraa. The move came a day
after the announcement of the release of 260 political prisoners, most of them
Soldiers took to the streets of Latakia on Saturday night to
help secret police and security forces control the port, residents said. The
army also bolstered checkpoints around Deraa, where Human Rights Watch says 61
people have died.
“There is a feeling in Latakia that the presence of
disciplined troops is necessary to keep order,” one resident said. “We do not
Syria’s establishment is dominated by members of the
minority Alawite sect, an offshoot of Shi’ite Islam to which the Assads belong,
a fact that causes resentment among Sunni Muslims who make up some
three-quarters of the population. Latakia is mostly Sunni Muslim but has
significant numbers of Alawites.
“An official source said attacks by
armed elements on the families and districts of Latakia in the last two days
resulted in the martyrdom of 10 security forces and civilians and the killing of
two of the armed elements,” SANA reported.
The source said 200 people,
most of whom were from the security forces, were wounded in clashes. Rights
activists told Reuters at least six people were killed in Latakia in two
Asked about security forces opening fire, government spokeswoman
Reem Haddad told Al-Jazeera on Sunday: “The security forces were given very
strict orders not to shoot at anyone, and they did not shoot at anyone at all
until those people shot at them and at other citizens.
when you have people shooting then it becomes a matter of national security and
you can’t just have that happening,” she said.