New clashes spread across Syria
Syria's hardline regime was yesterday grappling to contain new flare-ups after an uprising that has sharply eroded its repressive rule for the past week and led to the deaths of at least 55 protesters.
There were fresh clashes in the port city of Latakia, where six people were reported to have been shot dead, as well as in the southern towns of Tafa and Deraa, a flashpoint since last weekend. They came as burials took place across the country amid international condemnation at the uncompromising force shown by the Ba'athist government that has ruled Syria for more than 40 years.
Syrian authorities have detained two Americans amid the unprecedented wave of protest.
Despite a show of military strength, President Bashar al-Assad has been unable to free himself from the most sustained threat to his 11-year rule, which has seen protesters attack posters of him and statues of his father, Hafez al-Assad, who ruled for 30 years. Such acts have been almost without precedent throughout four decades of totalitarian rule. Assad tried to stay ahead of the revolts sweeping the Arab world as they rumbled towards Syria. He offered a string of concessions, such as heating fuel subsidies, access to previously banned social media and a three-month cut in military service.
However, his regime now appears to be facing a momentum that not even the Arab world's most-feared police state could prepare for.
There were reports yesterday of between 70 and 260 political prisoners being released, in what was being seen as the latest concession.
The concessions offered so far have shown no sign of containing the restive streets, which are feeding off the success of revolutions in Tunisia and Egypt.
International criticism has been strident. United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon, urged Assad to show "maximum restraint", while the US said it was deeply concerned by "the Syrian government's attempts to repress and intimidate demonstrators".