An international chorus of condemnation swelled Tuesday against Syrian President
Bashar Assad’s aggressive crackdown on a popular uprising now entering its sixth
European states implored Assad to put an end to the violence, the
UK said it is weighing sanctions and the US urged citizens to leave the country
Assad’s armed forces continued their crushing counter-
offensive Tuesday, with artillery echoing early around the besieged city of
Deraa as civilians sought refuge indoors from tanks and snipers on the streets,
a resident said.
In the coastal city of Banias, a resident there said,
forces braced for a possible attack as protesters chanted “the people want the
overthrow of the regime.”
“We need to end, once and for all, the fiction
that Bashar Assad is a reformer,” David Schenker, director of the Program on
Arab Politics at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, told The
“Nobody is under the illusion that the emergency law is
going to end or that Syria is going to become a multiparty system. Assad is not
prepared to commit political suicide,” he said by phone Tuesday from the US
“Assad is a very vain man who believes Syria is the center of
the Middle East, if not the world,” said Schenker, a former top Pentagon aide
and expert on the Arab states of the Levant.
“He has to become an
international pariah. I would argue that his behavior mandated this type of
international response long before now – he’s been brutal to his people for
years, ever since he came to power.”
Britain, France, Germany and
Portugal are asking the United Nations Security Council to condemn the Syrian
crackdown in a draft statement being circulated in New York, a UN diplomat
“We send a strong call to Damascus authorities to stop the violent
repression of what are peaceful demonstrations,” Italy’s Prime Minister Silvio
Berlusconi said, at a joint news conference with French President Nicolas
Sarkozy in Rome.
The US said Monday it was studying targeted sanctions
against Syria, and Dutch Foreign Minister Uri Rosenthal on Tuesday proposed the
European Union suspend aid to Damascus and impose an arms embargo and sanctions
against its leaders.
The State Department said it had instructed US
citizens to leave Syria and ordered some US Embassy personnel to leave the
Britain said Tuesday that obtaining a United Nations resolution
condemning Syria’s crackdown is difficult for now, but that may change if the
“If they [Syria] continue to go down the route of
ever more violent repression, well then of course, our concerns may be shared
more widely at the UN Security Council and the situation there may change,”
Foreign Secretary William Hague told parliament.
“Syria is now at a fork
in the road... it can choose ever more violent repression which can only ever
bring short term security for the authorities there.”
He added, “If it
does so we will work with our European partners and others to take measures
including sanctions that will have an impact on the regime.”
Britain was also making preparations for its citizens to leave
“There are about 700 British nationals who are registered with us
in Syria,” he said. “We do have contingency plans for their
In Turkey, Syrian opposition figures pleaded for
“Our friends in the West, in Turkey, in the Arab
world, if they want to help us, then they can do that by... putting the clearest
possible pressure on the Syrian regime to stop targeting civilians,” Anas Abdah,
the British-based chairman of the Movement for Justice and Development, told
Security forces have shot dead 400 civilians in a campaign to
crush the uprising against Assad’s 11-year rule, the Syrian human rights
organization Sawasiah said on Tuesday.
Another 500 people had been
arrested in the last two days, it said.
Last week Assad lifted Syria’s
48-year state of emergency and abolished a hated state security court. But the
next day 100 people were killed during protests across the
“Assad understands that there’s a threshold for how many people
his forces can kill on a given day,” Schenker said.
“He doesn’t want to
cross that threshold, lest he establish some kind of international consensus
Syrian opposition activists posted a document online two
weeks ago that they claimed were intelligence instructions from Damascus on
cracking down on dissent. The document – which has the hallmarks of an official
memorandum but has yet to be authenticated – instructs security forces not to
exceed 20 fatalities per day.
Meanwhile, hundreds of people gathered
outside the Syrian Embassy in Cairo on Tuesday in a show of
Embassy security tried unsuccessfully to push back the crowd
and drown out their chanting with music from loudspeakers, Al-Jazeera reported,
adding that the rally was the largest of three demonstrations held in Egypt’s
capital since the Syrian uprising began.
In Deraa, residents said
telephone lines, electricity and water supplies have all been cut. Majed
al-Hourani, speaking by satellite phone to Reuters, said there were bursts of
machine-gun fire and artillery rounds in the city. He reported brief, scattered
protests in different areas.
Amnesty international, citing sources in
Deraa, said at least 23 people were killed when tanks shelled Deraa on Monday in
what it called “a brutal reaction to people’s demands.”
reports are emerging over the army’s determination to put down the unrest. Anas
Abdah, the Syrian rights activist, said he had reports that some officers were
defying orders and trying to stop Assad loyalists from entering Deraa.
local resident said that a demonstration of around 300 youths was allowed to go
ahead. Soldiers near a tank deployed close by put down their light arms to
signify they would not shoot, he said.
But another amateur video released
Tuesday appeared to show peaceful protesters in Deraa chanting “The army is with
us,” before being dispersed by gunfire.Reuters contributed to this