Syrian forces ‘surround Damascus suburb’

Al Jazeera reports:

Troops commanded by Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s brother have surrounded the Damascus suburb of Harasta, residents say.

The move appears to be part of an ongoing crackdown on urban centres that have experienced protests on a daily basis.

“Hundreds of Fourth Division troops have sealed off all of Harasta’s dozen entrances,” a resident of the large suburb, who works as an engineer and managed to leave Harasta, told the Reuters news agency by telephone.

“They are wearing combat fatigues, helmets, ammunition belts and carrying assault rifles. Water, electricity and phones have been cut.”

Anthony Shadid reports from Hama:

In this city that bears the scars of one of the modern Middle East’s bloodiest episodes, the revolt against President Bashar al-Assad has begun to help Syrians imagine life after dictatorship as it forges new leaders, organizes its own defense and reckons with a grim past in an uncertain experiment that showcases the forces that could end Mr. Assad’s rule.

Dozens of barricades of trash bins, street lamps, bulldozers and sandbags, defended in various states of vigilance, block the feared return of the security forces that surprisingly withdrew last month. Protests begin past midnight, drawing raucous crowds of youths celebrating the simple fact that they can protest. At dusk, distant cries echo off cinder blocks and stone that render a tableau here of jubilation, fear and memory of a crackdown a generation ago whose toll — 10,000, 20,000, more — remains a defiant guess.

“Hama is free,” the protesters chant, “and it will remain free.”

Freedom is a word heard often these days in this city, Syria’s fourth largest, though that freedom could yet prove elusive. Hama rebelled last month, and the government withdrew the soldiers and security forces seemingly to forestall even more bloodshed, ceding space along the Orontes River that is really neither liberated nor subjugated.

In the uncertain interregnum, punctuated by worry that the security forces might return and fear of informers left behind, Hama has emerged in the four-month revolt against Mr. Assad as a turbulent model of what a city in Syria might resemble once four decades of dictatorship end. In skittish streets, there are at least nascent notions of self-determination, as residents seek to speak for themselves and defend a city that they declare theirs.

The sole poster of Mr. Assad in the city hangs from the undamaged headquarters of the ruling Baath Party. Gaggles of residents gather on the curb to debate politics, sing protest songs and retell the traumas of the crackdown in 1982, when the government stormed Hama to end an Islamist uprising. For the first time in memory, clerics and the educated elite in Hama are negotiating with the governor over how to administer the city, in a country long accustomed to a monologue delivered by the ruler to the ruled.

Meanwhile, “Nour Ali” reports from Damascus:

Brute force has been the main weapon of the Syrian regime as it has sought to crush growing protests, killing at least 1,500 people and torturing hundreds more. But Syrians have also been besieged by relentless propaganda.

In a week that has seen at least 40 die and escalating violence in Homs, the country’s third largest city, state radio and private stations owned by regime cronies have been blaring out songs exalting Bashar al-Assad as “Abu Hafez”, suggesting his son Hafez could succeed him, or anointing him president for “all eternity”.

Baseball caps, T-shirts and flags adorned with the president’s face are sold around Damascus. Billboards show him surrounded by pink hearts – in stark contrast to the sterner, more militarised pictures of his father, Hafez, the former president.

Television programmes show residents shopping and driving, portraying calm and order while regime supporters chant that they would shed blood for their leader.

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2 thoughts on “Syrian forces ‘surround Damascus suburb’

  1. Arabi Souri

    Syria in the heart of the storm. Over 40 countries interfere in a single country and works publicly hard for over 5 months and covert for at least a couple of years before, and yet, the Syrian Regime is intact, not a single diplomatic defection neither a single army or security officer defector.

    That should give you a hint what’s happening inside this country called Syria, in spite of the hundreds of youtube footage where the maximum majority of it is unreliable, biased, in many cases staged and after that refuted with facts by the regime’s state media.

    A country that has a minority of every sect with a majority of Islamic Sunnis all live in harmony, it’ll be very difficult to crack their living culture.

    What really happened on the ground is the infiltration of tens of thousands of ex-Qaeda operatives in Iraq, Afghanistan and even in smaller numbers from Lebanon. The total number of these armed, well experienced armed gangs on a moderate count reach between 40 & 50 thousands fighters, moving with huge sums of cash between border cities in Syria and provided with high tech state of the art communication devices that works on the CIA sub-internet and has direct links through Al Thoraya Satellite telephones and connects with Al Jazeera the pan Arab news channel from Qatar. That all makes an unbiased observer to start guessing who is bearing the costs of all these enormous efforts on the ground inside Syria, keeping in mind that one single minute of connection through Al Thoraya would cost you around $30, so imagine the hours of broadcasting live.

    Nobody is innocent among the international news houses, especially when they get their news from few media providers like Reuters, Al Jazeera & AFP. With each one of these reporters having a personal problem with the Syrian regime and non of them on the ground.

    The biggest drama comes when these media houses depend on so-called self proclaimed ‘Human Rights Activists’ whom in many cases are wanted criminals or relatives of such fugitives wanted for committing criminal acts in Syria, some even as low as rape of a sister in law for one of them, and another head of a Human Rights Organization who received a $10,000 as a price of a kidney from a donor without paying the donor any single cent of it..!

    Hundreds of armed individuals of Syrian, Other Arabs and even Foreign fighters are being caught, add to it what’s happening in Homs, Central Syria of planting sectarian hatred and the unbelievable rude visit of the US & French Ambassadors to Hama to participate in protests against the government of the hosting country which is in contradiction of all diplomatic treaties; all of that leads to an international effort to destroy the harmony the people of Syria lives in this country for over 7000 years.

  2. Syrian Commando

    Just pointing out that the sources you’ve chosen are quite obviously biased. NY Times is own by the zionist-aligned Rupert Murdoch. Al Jazeera is owned by Qatar who has been at war with Syria. As a result, Syria cut diplomatic ties 2 days before it was broadly announced by the media, but if you were watching our twitter feeds you would have received the news.

    The 1,500 number Nour Ali spat out includes the number of military and police killed by these so-called “unarmed” protestors, who are so brazen, that they are carrying out bombings and display their RPGs openly.

    So really, you have to wonder, why are all these people singing in chorus with lies. Could it be coordinated or are we to believe there isn’t anyone with enough journalistic integrity out there, who can write up a critical (as in, takes in all sides THEN investigates the claims) piece on Syria?

    And please, not Robert Fisk, despite slapping the house of Saud on the hand a few times, we’ve all figured out who he’s working for.

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