Syrians took to the streets in large numbers again on Wednesday in the central
city of Homs, where activists say more than 20 pro-democracy protesters have
been shot dead since Monday by soldiers and irregular forces.
chanted for “the downfall of the regime,” in defiance of the heavy deployment of
security forces and a warning by officials to stop all
Our World: The Syrian spring
Editorial: The truth about Syria
The protest also went ahead despite a concession by the
government, which approved legislation on Tuesday to end the state of emergency
in force for the past 48 years.
In the city of Banias, in what was seen
as another attempt to mollify protesters, the chief of security police was
sacked, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.
Five civilians were
killed in Banias last week and residents identified Amjad Abbas, the fired
police chief, as one of the officers seen beating a villager in the nearby town
of Baida, the Observatory said, citing sources in Damascus.
forces had sealed off Banias last week after demonstrations against President
Bashar Assad and an attack by irregular forces loyal to him on men guarding a
Protests continued overnight, including in the Damascus
suburb of Zabadani, where protesters called for freedom and for the overthrow of
Assad’s rule, echoing the rallying cries of uprisings in Tunisia and
There were also sit-ins in Jabla on the coast, a women’s rally in
Barzeh in Damascus, and a candlelight procession in Tel near the capital
In Syria’s second largest city, Aleppo, Assad’s irregular
forces broke up a small demonstration at the city’s university, beating several
students and arresting 37, a rights activist said.
Civic figures in Homs,
which is known for its intellectuals and artists, have signed a declaration
calling on the army“not to spill the blood of honorable Syrians” and denying
official allegations that Salafist groups were operating there.
rule, in place since the Ba’ath Party seized power in a 1963 coup, gave security
organs blanket power to stifle dissent through a ban on gatherings of over five
people, and the ability to make arbitrary arrests and hold closed trials,
US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on Wednesday condemned
the violence in Syria and said the government there must stop the arbitrary
arrest, detention and torture of prisoners.
“We are particularly
concerned about the situation in Homs, where multiple reports suggest violence
and casualties among both civilians and government personnel,” she said at a
news conference. Independent confirmation was difficult because
journalists were not being allowed access, she said.
government must allow free movement and free access; it must stop the arbitrary
arrest, detentions and torture of prisoners,” Clinton said.
She called on
the Syrian government to cease violence and respond to “the legitimate issues
that have been raised by the Syrian people seeking substantial and lasting
With Assad busy trying to quell an insurrection at home, it is
doubtful whether Syria or Hezbollah have an interest in heating up tensions
along Israel’s northern border, Strategic Affairs Minister Moshe Ya’alon said
In one of the first statements by a government minister
regarding the volatile situation in Syria, Ya’alon asserted confidence about the
potentially volatile scenario.
“The IDF is ready for any scenario on the
northern front,” he said, “although it is doubtful whether Assad or his ally in
Lebanon has an interest in heating up the border and entering a battle with
Israel at a time when the Syrian regime is busy trying to survive, and is
cruelly turning its guns on its own people.”
Israel, Ya’alon said,
“certainly has an interest in the calm being maintained.”
comments came during a tour of the Golan Heights with a group of Likud
“The events that have taken place in recent weeks in Syria
prove that the people there are thirsty for freedom and openness that the
current regime in Damascus is unable to provide,” Ya’alon said.
He said that although nobody could say for sure whether Assad would be able to
ride out the current storm, “one thing is clear: The threshold of fear in Syria
has been broken, and what was, will not be again.”
Ya’alon said that
Assad’s regime is a member of the “axis of evil,” and on a regular basis helps
arm Hezbollah in Lebanon, Hamas in the Gaza Strip, and terrorist groups in
And, Ya’alon said, Bashar Assad, unlike his father, Hafez Assad,
has never prepared his people for a peace agreement with Israel, and declares
whenever he can that he will lead the rejectionist camp against
“And this is in parallel with his close connection with the
Iranian government,” Ya’alon said. “Therefore, all talk of peace, and
certainly peace in exchange for the Golan Heights, is at this stage nothing more
than an illusion.”
Ya’alon said Israel should not develop a reflex
whereby in exchange for eating “humous in Damascus,” Israel would immediately be
willing to give up on territory and very significant security interests,
especially when the other side has only paid “lip service” to the idea of peace.