Syria: with harshness against protests

Another brutal crackdown on protesters. The regime blames foreign agitators for unrest; chavez supports bashar al-assad

Syrian ruler bashar al-assad remains silent. A speech by him was already announced for sunday evening, but it failed to materialize. Now it is said that he will make announcements on tuesday. Meanwhile, the situation in syria remains tense.

Over the weekend, the syrian leadership sent the army to crack down on demonstrations that had now spread to the coastal town of lattakia, some 200 kilometers north of damascus. 12 people have died in the clashes.

Today, the state news agency sana reports that thanks to the security forces and the citizens of lattakia, calm has returned. Thanks to the commitment, a plot aimed at the "syrian model of coexistence" has been thwarted. Lattakia is considered the home of the alewites, the shiite religious community from which the ruling al-assad family descends. The regime has sought to portray the protests as sectarian in nature, pointing to attempts to antagonize religious communities.

Official accounts also emphasize that the violence comes from armed gangs. Opponents accuse government security forces of targeting demonstrators with snipers. After last week’s massacre in daraa, which eyewitnesses said was committed by syrian security forces, protests against the regime have grown and are increasingly directed against the ruling baath party as well. In lattakia party buros are said to have been rounded up.

In a first concession, the government announced its intention to repeal the emergency laws that have been in force since 1963, and at the same time to release imprisoned demonstrators. It is also expected that the government will be reformed, and it announced the usual investigations into the deaths of the past week, but observers say that this may no longer be enough to pacify the protests.

As in other arab countries facing protests, they seek to blame foreigners. Syrian television yesterday presented several foreigners who made such confessions, the most prominent case being an egyptian with american citizenship and ties to israel who works in syria and is said to have sent "photos and videos from syria.".

The amption of foreign-directed protests in syria, alluded to here, is broadly shared by venezuela’s leader chavez. In a supporter statement for syria’s ruler bashar, reproduced by al-jazeera (see liveblog, 28.Marz, 08:00), chavez believes in a strategy of the united states, which was also soon to intervene with bombs to support the only presumably peaceful movement:

The supposedly peaceful movements have already begun, and then there will be some deaths and they’ll be accusing the syrian president of killing his people. Later, the yankees come and want to bomb the people in order to save them, imagine that. What shameless cynicism! It’s a new strategy they’ve invented, to generate violent armed conflicts and spill blood in a country in order to then bomb it and intervene and take ownership of its natural resources and convert it into a colony.

Die iranische nachrichtenagentur irna soll ebenfalls die version von agitatoren verbreiten, die von israel angeheuert wurden, um unruhe in syrien zu saen, wahrenddessen man sich in israel uber die instabilitat in syrien beunruhigt zeigt: assad’s fall could deliver lebanon to iran and hezbollah.

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