Friday, July 15, 2011

US on Syria's Bashar Al-Assad - Better the Devil We Know?

Protesters shot dead on Syrian day of defiance

Activists say a million people protested and 19 people were killed in clashes in Damascus and other cities
    Protest in Hama, Syria
    Anti-government protesters acknowledge Al-Jazeera and the Shaam News Network during a rally in the central city of Hama. Photograph: Ho/AP
    Tensions between Syria and the United States remain at boiling point, despite the US ambassador resisting calls to take to the country's restive streets again to support anti-regime protesters who turned out in large numbers on Friday. Ambassador Robert Ford remained in the US embassy in Damascus, where heavy gunfire was reported in at least four areas, but has pledged to make another trip to a flashpoint city soon in a move that is sure to anger his hosts. Activists reported at least 19 deaths around the country and dozens of injuries as people gathered for Friday prayers, which have been used as a launching pad for dissent for more than four months. Heavy clashes took place in parts of the capital, according to activists and state media, who offered widely diverging accounts on their cause. At least seven protesters were shot dead in Damascus as some of the largest crowds since the uprising began poured on to the streets. Security forces have generally used batons and teargas in Damascus to avoid inflaming protests in the heartland of the regime's power. Elsewhere, scores of wounded were reported in the cities of Aleppo, Deraa, Idleb and Homs. Syrian officials again blamed armed gangs for the violence – an indirect reference to Islamists who, the regime claims, are trying to ignite sectarian chaos. However, activists said unarmed demonstrators were again attacked by soldiers firing live rounds. The use of violence has been unpredictable, changing by week and location. In Homs, one resident in the prosperous neighbourhood of Inshaat said security forces locally appeared to be trying to avoid deaths. "They have been shooting, but seemed to be aiming at the legs rather that the heads." Two of the biggest protests took place in Hama and Deir Ezzor, on a day when activists estimated that up to a million people may have openly defied the regime nationwide. Along with Aleppo, which is Syria's commercial hub, instability in the two cities poses the greatest threat to government containment of a country the Baath party and clan of president Bashar al-Assad have controlled for more than four decades.Read more....

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