Syria: over the edge into civil war?

Heavy fighting is reported between the Syrian army and opposition activists in central Homs province, as anti-government protests continue. In Rastan, seven soldiers and police were reportedly killed battling troops who have defected to the opposition. At least 11 protesters were killed after thousands took to the streets after Friday prayers Sept. 30, activists said. (BBC News, Sept. 30) European nations have meanwhile dropped an explicit threat of sanctions against the Syrian regime in a bid to win Russian support for what would be the first UN resolution condemning the military crackdown on civilian protesters. Europeans diplomats meanwhile appealed to all sides in Syria “to reject violence and extremism.” (UKPA, Sept. 30)

See our last posts on Syria and the Arab revolutions.

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  1. “Free Syrian Army” calls for armed resistance
    A group of military defectors known as the Free Syrian Army is emerging as the first armed challenge to the regime after seven months of largely non-violent protest. Riad al-Asaad, the group’s leader and an air force colonel who recently fled to Turkey, boasted in an interview with the Associated Press on Oct. 5 that he now has more than 10,000 followers, was confident more soldiers would soon join his ranks. “They will soon discover that armed rebellion is the only way to break the Syrian regime,” he said in a phone interview from Turkey. “I call on all the honorable people in the Syrian army to join us so we can liberate our country,” he said. “It is the only way to get rid of this murderous regime.”

    AP did not make clear whether Riad al-Asaad is related to Rifaat al-Assad, the incumbent despot’s uncle, who was exiled from Syria after he attempted a coup d’etat against the late Hafez al-Assad (his brother and the incumbent’s dad).

  2. Damascus responds to formation of Syrian National Council
    Syria warned of unspecified “measures” against any country that recognizes the newly formed opposition Syrian National Council (SNC). Foreign Minister Walid al-Moualem did not give details but said the council was not legitimate, saying the SNC “doesn’t concern me.” But he added: “What concerns me is our stance—we will take tough measures against any state which recognises this illegitimate council.” Formation of the SNC was announced in Turkey on Oct. 3. Chairman Burhan Ghalioun said the body is “an independent group personifying the sovereignty of the Syrian people in their struggle for liberty” and was “open to all Syrians.” (BBC News, Oct. 9)

    On Oct. 5, Russia and China vetoed a European bid to impose sanctions on Syria at a stormy UN Security Council meeting. After nearly six months of negotiations, nine countries voted for the text, drawn up by France with Britain, Germany and Portugal. It called for “targeted measures” if Syrian President Bashar al-Assad does not end the assault on protesters, which the UN says has left at least 2,700 dead. US ambassador Susan Rice led a rare walkout protest from the Council chamber when Syria’s UN envoy accused the United States of being a party to “genocide.” (Hurriyet Daily News, Oct. 5)