Situation 'terrible' in rebel Syrian city of Daraa
Published 28/04/2011 | 05:00
THE city at the heart of Syria's month-long uprising ran low on food, water and medicine yesterday as the army sent in more tanks and reinforcements as part of a widening crackdown against opponents of President Bashar Assad.
Gunfire and sporadic explosions were heard in Daraa, two days after the military rolled in -- backed by tanks and snipers. The army also deployed tanks around the Damascus suburb of Douma and the coastal city of Banias, the site of large demonstrations recently.
"We have no electricity, no water, no telephones and no bread," resident Abdullah Abazeid said from Daraa, where the uprising began more than five weeks ago. "The situation is terrible."
Mr Assad is trying to crush the uprising that poses the gravest challenge to his family's 40-year ruling dynasty. Since mid-March, more than 450 people have been killed across Syria in the crackdown, with 120 dead just over the weekend.
The repression, however, has only emboldened protesters who started their revolt with calls for modest reforms but are now increasingly demanding Assad's downfall.
Syria has banned nearly all foreign media and restricted access to trouble spots since the uprising began.
Eyewitness accounts coming out of Syria have caused world leaders to increase their criticism of the Assad regime. The governments of five European nations summoned Syrian ambassadors yesterday in a co-ordinated demand that Assad stop shooting at his people. Germany said sanctions were possible if the crackdown didn't ease, echoing remarks by Britain's foreign secretary.
A group of opposition figures in Syria warned Assad that his regime will collapse unless he ushers in democracy.
"Syria is at a crossroads," said the statement from the National Initiative for Change. "The best option is for the leadership of the regime to lead a transition to democracy that would safeguard the nation from falling into a period of violence, chaos and civil war."
The relentless government throttling of the protest movement has shown no sign of letting up.
Meanwhile, in Washington it emerged yesterday that the Obama administration is pressing the United Nations Human Rights Council to derail Syria's request for membership in the organisation and to condemn the government's attacks on peaceful protesters.