Syrian forces tightened their grip over several hot spots of unrest on
Wednesday, as troops poured overnight into a Damascus suburb, tanks patrolled
the volatile city of Deraa and security men surrounded Banias on the
Authorities have removed most foreign journalists from the
country, and images of the violence have come mostly from mobile-phone
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On Wednesday, video footage continued to emerge from this
weekend’s crackdown in Deraa and the Damascus suburbs. Some of the most graphic
images showed peaceful protesters being met with repeated machine-gun fire,
leaving many lying in their own blood, some dead or badly wounded.
the images showed a bloodied, unconscious boy with a gaping head wound, further
evidence that Syrian snipers are conducting an unforgiving shoot-to-kill policy
as long as protests persist.
Deputy Negev and Galilee Development
Minister Ayoub Kara, on behalf of the Likud, said Israel needed to do more to
stop the bloodletting.
“After I saw the horrific images from the streets,
my humanity urged me to act. No one can bear seeing that,” he
“The world is sitting idly by, but it can’t apply a different
standard to Syria than it does to Libya... Sticking our heads in the sand over
what’s happening to Assad doesn’t win us much respect in this
Kara, a Druse, said he has been in contact in recent weeks with
leaders of Syria’s opposition.
“Since the disturbances broke out in
Syria, my office has become a kind of control room for the opposition,” he said.
“I understand their language and I’m a representative of the Israeli government,
so to them I’m their link to the free world.”
The lawmaker said the
opposition leaders, concerned by the growing power of the Muslim Brotherhood
within their movement, asked him to serve as a mediator in indirect talks with
Damascus. This week, Syrian opposition leaders from several religious
denominations met with representatives of European right-wing parties in Vienna
in a bid to put pressure on Damascus to stop the violence, he said.
said one of the opposition leaders with whom he was in contact was a former
high-ranking member of the Syrian government who recently defected to a foreign
“We are at a turning point, and there are two possible outcomes.
One is that the Muslim Brotherhood takes over, another that the regime survives,
and the third that the government endures but is in the hands of the ‘sane’
opposition, and gradually leads Syria into democracy and ties with the West,” he
“It’s all open – no one knows what will happen,” Kara
A witness told Reuters that a convoy of at least 30 army tanks
headed early on Wednesday from southwest of Damascus, near the Golan Heights, in
a direction that could take them to either the Damascus suburb of Douma or to
Overnight, white buses had brought hundreds of soldiers in full
combat gear into Douma, from where protesters have tried to march into the
center of the capital over the past two weeks, only to be stopped by
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said it had names of at
least 453 civilians killed during the protests across the country against
Assad’s 11-year authoritarian rule.
A resident in Deraa, where
electricity, water and phone lines were cut when the army rolled in at dawn on
Monday, told Reuters that fresh food was running out and grocery stores were
giving away their produce.
“It’s mostly tinned food they are distributing
to us,” he said by telephone.
A relative said his neighbor saw a tank
driving over the body of a young man in the main Tishrin square on
“They are telling us: ‘You have to accept us and we will remain
forever your rulers, whether you like it or not. And if you resist us, this is your fate,’” he
Diplomats said the unit Assad sent into Deraa on Monday was the
ultra-loyal Fourth Mechanized Division, commanded by his brother Maher. Reports
from opposition figures and Deraa residents, which could not be confirmed, said
that some soldiers from another unit had refused to fire on
One country directly affected by the unrest is Syria’s close
ally Iran, as regime change in Damascus could deal a severe blow to the Islamic
Republic’s ability to project its power in the region and threaten
Tehran, which regards Syria as a close ally in a mainly
Sunni-dominated region suspicious of non- Arab Shi’ite Iran, has called the
revolt in Syria “a Zionist plot.”
“We are worried about the resistance
against Israel,” Asad Zarei, an Iranian pro-government political analyst, told
the Los Angeles Times on Wednesday. “If the changes in Syria happen in a way
that the resistance is undermined, we are very worried.”
Writing in The
Wall Street Journal
, Iranian-born analyst Amir Taheri noted, “From the start,
Tehran media have labeled the Syrian uprising ‘a Zionist plot,’ the term they
used to describe the pro-democracy movement in Iran itself.
“In 2009, the
mullahs claimed that those killed in the streets of Tehran and Tabriz were not
peaceful demonstrators but ‘Zionist and Infidel’ agents who deserved to die. The
Assad clan is using the same vicious vocabulary against freedom lovers in Syria
as snipers kill them in the streets of Damascus, Deraa and
Reuters contributed to this report.
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