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Last Thursday, President Obama told Syrian President Bashar Assad to “lead that [democratic] transition or get out of the way.” He has answered with continued bloodshed, including firing upon mourners at a funeral on Saturday.
On Friday, the day after Obama’s speech, tens of thousands of Syrians poured into the streets to protest the Assad regime as they have done on a weekly basis since the uprising began. On that day, 44 civilians were killed. On Saturday, about 40,000 people attended a funeral in Homs for one of those who died and the crowd was fired upon. By the end of the weekend, the casualty number rose to 76. The death toll has topped 900 and at least 10,000 have been arrested. Over 1,000 student protesters were detained in Aleppo last week alone.
The regime often searches hospitals for its opponents, so those injured are now forced to seek treatment in private homes and clinics. On May 16, four mass graves were discovered in Daraa with up to 40 bodies, including women and children. Videos showing the inhumanity of the regime are regularly posted on the Internet, including one showing a tank twice running over a wounded or dead protester. The regime is trying to stop the flow of refugees out of the country, as about 10,000 Syrians have fled to Lebanon. Crackdowns that include the severing of communications and sometimes electricity continue in several cities including Daraa, Homs, Deir al-Zour and suburbs and towns in Damascus like Saqba and Douma.
The regime has finally admitted that some of its security forces are guilty of using violence, but says this is because they were inadequately trained. It continues to claim that “armed groups” and Islamic extremists are responsible for the murders. On Friday, state television aired the confessions of alleged terrorists who said they were waging jihad on the Assad regime to create an Islamic principality using arms imported from Lebanon. The regime has justified its military crackdowns by saying they are counter-terrorism actions, and has accused its enemies in Lebanon of stoking the unrest.
An Iranian opposition group has reported that 65 members of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps were sent to Damascus earlier this month in four planes loaded with weapons. According to this account, the Iranians have set up a base in Damascus called the Ammar Operations Headquarters to coordinate efforts with the Syrian regime. The Reform Party of Syria earlier broke the story that a similar base had been set up in Homs to oversee the Syrian security forces and military. The U.S.-based opposition group also says that non-Arabic fighters have been seen in Talkalah, Daraa, Idlib and Jisr al-Shoughour, indicating the intervention of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards and Hezbollah. It has also been said that Iraqis loyal to Moqtada al-Sadr are involved in Iran’s efforts to save the Assad regime.
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