Thousands in Syria begin sit-in for Assad's ouster
More than 5,000 anti-government protesters in Syria took over the main square of the country's third-largest city Monday, vowing to occupy the site until President Bashar Assad is ousted and defying authorities who warn they will not be forced into reforms.
In the past month, Syrian security forces in uniforms and plainclothes have launched a deadly crackdown on demonstrations, killing at least 200 people, according to human rights groups. Many Syrians also say pro-government thugs — known as Shabiha — have terrorized neighborhoods with tactics such as opening fire into the air.
The latest killings were bound to increase pressure on Assad, who has tried to quell the popular uprising with a mixture of brute force and concessions. On Saturday, he promised to end nearly 50 years of emergency rule this week, a key demand of the protesters.
Syria city 'boiling' after security forces reportedly kill 12 protesters
Syrian forces killed 12 protesters overnight in the central city of Homs in clashes after the death of a tribal leader in custody, a rights campaigner in Homs said on Monday.
"Homs is boiling. Security forces and the regime thugs have been provoking armed tribes for a month now. But civilians in large numbers also took to the streets in different areas of Homs last night and they were shot at in cold blood," the rights campaigner told Reuters.
The violence comes shortly after Syrian security forces killed three mourners on a highway outside the town of Talbiseh, slightly north of Homs, on Sunday when they opened fire on a funeral that had turned into a demonstration, two witnesses said.
Syrian forces fire at thousand of protesters in Homs
Syrian forces fired shots at hundreds of protesters who had gathered overnight in Homs city in defiance of warning by the authorities to halt what they called an insurrection, a rights campaigner said on Tueday.
Activists in Homs said the eight were killed late on Sunday during protests against the death in custody of a tribal leader.
Wissam Tarif, a rights activist in contact with people in Syria, said the toll was higher and he had the names of 12 people killed in the city.
"Homs is boiling. The security forces and the regime thugs have been provoking armed tribes for a month now," a rights activist told Reuters from the city.
The unrest, which broke out a month ago in the southern city of Deraa, has spread across Syria and presented the gravest challenge yet to Assad, who assumed the presidency in 2000 when his father Hafez al-Assad died after 30 years in power.
Assad's own smuggling network commandeered for arming his opposition
Large sections of the Syrian economy have ground to a halt, DEBKAfile's sources report, because 2,500 supply trucks are backed up on the Lebanese border and 3,000 trucks on the Jordanian and Iraqi frontiers for meticulous, time-consuming searches. The Syrian authorities suspect Saudi Arabia of smuggling weapons to the opposition through Jordan, Iraq and Lebanon, having commandeered the infamous Middle East smuggling ring of which the Assad regime was an organizer and key link - and which has now turned around to bite its master.
Assad and his security chiefs have now decided that Damascus' role as the smuggling hub of the Levant threatens their hold on power because Saudi Arabia has begun using three network branches for spiriting arms and financial aid to the Syrian opposition
Assad must be facing enormous pressure just to keep a lid on these protests and uprisings. There is no telling what the outcome will be, but a major concern from Israel is that Assad could use anti-Israeli rhetoric (and possibly subequent actions) to both appease the radical Islamic element or, like Egypt, Assad could end up being replaced by such.
Either way, this is well worth watching closely for further developments.