Shots fired as Syrian protesters take to the streets again
Thursday 31 March 2011
Within hours of President Bashar al-Assad's speech yesterday, 100 or more people went out on to the streets of the port city of Latakia in protest, shouting "Freedom!". Residents said they heard shots fired in the old al-Sleibeh district of the city as security forces confronted the demonstrators.
Opposition groups are calling for more protests after Friday prayers tomorrow, while the government will intensify security measures to stop further demonstrations.
Mr Assad's speech offered few concessions. He has not satisfied the protesters' demands or given the impression that the grip on power he and his family hold is weakening.
In his first response to the crisis, Mr Assad said there was "a major conspiracy" against Syria directed from outside the country, although he did not spell out who he believed was behind the plot. The opposition had expected him to introduce reforms, such as ending the state of emergency that has existed since 1963. "We don't seek battles but, if a battle is imposed on us today, we welcome it," the President said in a televised speech. Among those he blamed for provoking the violence were satellite television channels.
It may be that there are serious divisions in the leadership about how to respond to the protests. Mr Assad's adviser, Bouthaina Shaaban, said last week that a committee had been formed to study a series of reforms, including lifting emergency laws. Even so, the security apparatus is unlikely to be restrained by the letter of the law.
If the Syrian regime is seriously weakened by the turmoil, and unable to bring it under control, there will be a radical change in the balance of power in the Middle East. The losers will be Iran, since Syria is its one reliable ally in the Arab world; Hezbollah in Lebanon, which relies on Syrian backing; and Hamas in Gaza, which has been able to use Damascus as a headquarters. Israel and the US, at least in the short term, will be the winners.
Mr Assad did concede that the Syrian people "have demands that have not been met", adding: "If we stay without reform we are on the course of destruction." But he appears to be thinking of incremental change to the way the regime operates and not to any reduction in its authority. He claimed that some protesters had been "duped" into the streets, while others' legitimate demands would be met.
Man who held up 'hire me' sign at Waterloo station returns a year later with 'I'm hiring' sign
Saudi preacher who 'raped and tortured' his five -year-old daughter to death is released after paying 'blood money'
Rob Lowe hits out at White House decision not to meet Israeli leader
Iraq invasion 2003: The bloody warnings six wise men gave to Tony Blair as he prepared to launch poorly planned campaign
Winston Churchill: From accusations of anti-Semitism to the blunt refusal that led to the deaths of millions
- 1 The truth about 'girl things': Three cheers for Heather Watson's honesty
- 2 Man who held up 'hire me' sign at Waterloo station returns a year later with 'I'm hiring' sign
- 4 Tennis fan suing Australian Open organisers for 'failing to shade spectators' during Murray match
- 5 Men behaving badly: Urinating while standing, 'manspreading' and the gendering of selfishness
Excellent Salary : Austen Lloyd: OXFORD - REGIONAL FIRM - An excellent opportu...
Super Package: Austen Lloyd: BRISTOL - SENIOR CLINICAL NEGLIGENCE - An outstan...
£15000 - £50000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Fantastic opportunities are ava...
Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A Compute Engineer is required to join a globa...