News / Middle East

Syria Detains Opposition Activists in Continuing Crackdown

In this image taken on a mobile phone, a Syrian soldier patrols streets in Damascus, Syria, May 8, 2011
In this image taken on a mobile phone, a Syrian soldier patrols streets in Damascus, Syria, May 8, 2011

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The Syrian government is continuing its crackdown Monday against anti-government protesters. Witnesses say the government is moving tanks and security forces into a number of towns and cities that have been hotbeds for opposition protests.

Witnesses say Syrian security forces and pro-government militias broke down doors and shattered windows while rounding up opposition activists in several cities and some suburbs of the capital, Damascus.

Clouds of black smoke also hovered over the Damascus suburb of Maadamiyeh, where witnesses say a government crackdown began overnight. Electricity and telephone service were reported to have been cut, and government militias were reported to be making house-to-house searches.

Small crowds of opposition supporters chanted slogans overnight against the government in a suburb of the northwest city of Jisr Shughur, according to a Facebook group. The city was dark, except for generators, with electricity apparently cut off. It was not possible to independently verify the news, since foreign journalists are not allowed to cover events in Syria.

Opposition supporters waved candles during an overnight protest in a suburb of the flashpoint southern city of Daraa. They condemned numerous arrests of young activists by government militias. The group chanted slogans accusing government media of lying.

Syrian government television said that "outlaws" and "terrorists" attacked and killed a number of Syrian soldiers in recent days. It showed family members of the deceased, who said that "terrorists" had taken their loved ones from them.

The reports accused international media of "plotting" against the Syrian government and "broadcasting lies."

Hilal Khashan, who teaches political science at the American University of Beirut, said that the Syrian government is widening the scope of its crackdown, amid what he calls global indifference.

"The government is asserting its control. It's dealing with the protests from a security perspective. International condemnation is barely visible. So, the regime is solving the situation from a security perspective," said Khashan. "[The government] started in Daraa. They took their time to finish off positions there, and then they moved to Banias on the coast and a couple of days ago they moved into Homs, and today Syrian tanks are moving into a Damascus neighborhood."

Khashan added that the government seems to be succeeding in quelling the popular revolt, since residents of Syria’s largest cities, Damascus and Aleppo, appear reluctant to join demonstrations in large numbers. But in the long run, he said, the government tactics may backfire.

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