The Guardian reports:
Hundreds of Syrians have fled to Lebanon after 20 people were killed in the biggest day of protests against President Bashar al-Assad.
Up to 1,000 Syrians escaped through the al-Qusair crossing in the region of Akkar near Wadi Khaled in northern Lebanon, according to a Lebanese security official.
At least six of those who crossed the border had gunshot wounds and were admitted to hospital in Akkar, the official said.
Teargas and live bullets were fired at demonstrators leaving Friday prayers in several areas of the capital Damascus and elsewhere. Syrian state TV blamed unidentified gunmen for some deaths.
Thousands of people are reported to have turned out in the Damascus suburb of Irbin, the central city of Homs, and, more unusually, in Aleppo, Syria’s second city, which has been largely peaceful so far.
The renewed protests came after President Assad offered dialogue and reform on Monday.
Meanwhile, Anthony Shadid reports:
Hotels that catered to sandal-wearing backpackers in the storied Syrian city of Aleppo stand empty. Capital from the Persian Gulf that underpinned Syrian ambitions of modernization has begun to dry up. The Syrian pound has faltered, exports have fallen and the government has promised respite with money it will not have for long.
In his first address to Syrians in two months, President Bashar al-Assad warned this week of “the collapse of the Syrian economy.” The words might have been hyperbole, aimed at rallying support for a leadership staggering from a three-month uprising. But the sentiments underlined the danger the economy there poses for a government that long promised its people better lives, even as it refused to surrender any real political power.
As the crisis deepens, Syrians face the prospect of achieving neither.
“We as businessmen want a solution, and we can’t wait forever,” said Muhammad Zaion, a garment dealer in Aleppo. “The president should find a way out of this crisis, or he should leave it to others. We need a solution, whatever that solution might be.”
For much of the world, Syria’s revolt has been viewed, through its politics, as a reaction to the ferocious crackdown deployed by one of the region’s most authoritarian governments.
But an economy long hailed for its potential — though its stewards have been criticized for its mismanagement — has played no less a role in the upheaval. Market reforms that cut subsidies on food and fuel over the past seven years stoked frustration, worsened by a devastating drought that began in 2006 and drove 1.5 million people from the countryside to cities without enough jobs.
With economists predicting that conditions will worsen over the summer, the health of the economy also may determine how the unrest evolves.