Anti-government protesters defied warnings by the Syrian army to stay home and took to the streets in cities across Syria today to protest the rule of authoritarian President Bashar Al-Assad. The action comes in the midst of a a bloody crackdown by the Assad regime, and some are suggesting the confrontation between Assad and Syrian dissenters my be reaching a tipping point.
Assad sent the Syrian army to all main cities today to stop people from demonstrating. But the army apparently disobeyed his reported orders not to kill protesters—and also didn't achieve Assad's main goal of preventing the protests from taking place at all.
"Today I'm sure that Assad lost control of the people and his people," one Syrian observer commented on condition of anonymity. He stressed that Assad failed either to assert effective authority over the army or over the Syrian people.
In response to the brutality of the crackdown, President Barack Obama signed an executive order today instituting sanctions against the Syrian intelligence agency and two of Assad's brothers, a White House official confirmed. Meanwhile, the UN Human Rights Council voted in Geneva today to condemn the Syrian crackdown.
"The [Executive Order] is a watershed," Andrew Tabler, a Syria expert with the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, told The Envoy. "This is the first time an Assad has been designated by the [U.S. government], and the first time the USG has issued an EO on human rights in Syria. Until a few months ago Human Rights was a distant fifth on our list of issues with Syria. Now it's emerged as the center of our policy."
Activists have posted footage of this latest "day of rage" in Syria to YouTube and other sites on the Internet. Meanwhile, news reports yielded conflicting information about the number of people killed in the southern Syrian city of Deraa today. The military has sealed off the city—the original site of the anti-Assad protests now spreading throughout the country—and Deraa has been functioning without electricity since last Saturday. Al Arabiya reported that 24 people were killed in Deraa today, while Al Jazeera earlier reported that 83 had been killed.
The YouTube video below shows protests in the Syrian capital Damascus today. The violent clashes featured here prompted the Syrian pro-democracy activist who uses the handle "Furious Syrian" to remark, "Demonstrations inside Damascus, the capital is moving. Beginning the final countdown."
Demonstrations were also reported today in the Syrian city of Hama, site of Hafez al-Assad's brutal massacre against anti-government protesters in 1982 that killed several thousand people.