Syrian tanks and helicopters opened fire and killed at least two civilians as the military advanced through a series of villages in northwestern Syria on Thursday, a push that sent residents running for the hills, several villagers said in phone calls with CNN.For all the claims that Assad is allowing reforms to go forward, his security forces continue to add to the butcher's bill.
"I can see smoke rising from the surrounding area," said a man named Omar Wahid, who spoke by telephone after he fled his home to a neighboring village. "It feels like a battlefield."
Syria has been engulfed by more than three months of anti-government discontent.
The crackdown on anti-government protests in the Jabal Zawiya region of Syria's Idlib province comes just days after Syrian authorities allowed a historic opposition conference to be held in the capital, Damascus.
Villagers said they saw helicopters sweeping in, dropping commandoes into the area from ropes Thursday morning.
They also said tanks and helicopters bombarded ancient Byzantine ruins in Al Bara. Al Bara is the site of a famous "dead city," a destination for tourists fascinated by fifth-century Byzantine churches, monasteries, and an iconic, fully intact pyramid-shaped burial chamber.
"They attacked the old church," said Mohamed Smail, a farmer who fled his home and spoke to CNN from the hills around Al Bara. "We are calling on international organizations to protect our ruins. They are destroying our cultural heritage."
All the while, we've got Rep. Dennis Kucinich running around meeting with Assad on what he's billing as a fact-finding mission, but which has amounted to a propaganda bonanza for Assad.
With the House not in session, Kucinich has been in Syria, where he was quoted by the state news agency saying kind words about President Bashar al-Assad, whose government has killed its own people. "President al-Assad is highly loved and appreciated by the Syrians," Kucinich said, per the news outlet.Assad didn't remove troops and cease hostilities; he simply moved them from one location to attack others.
Later, Kucinich said he was misquoted. But he received this blistering criticism from the Washington Post's editorial page:
Mr. Kucinich, who has fiercely opposed the U.S. intervention against Libyan strongman Moammar Gaddafi, traveled to Damascus over the weekend to huddle with Syria’s dictator, who is desperately seeking to avoid being isolated and labeled illegitimate by the outside world. Thanks to the slaughter by his security forces of at least 1,400 people — the vast majority of them unarmed civilians — Mr. Assad has few friends these days: The European Union and United States have sanctioned him personally, and even his regime’s most faithful allies are close to abandoning him... But Mr. Assad still has a friend: Mr. Kucinich.
Kucinich today issued a press release, stating: "I don’t support the violence, I don’t condone the violence and by direct appeal to President Assad and in supporting those who are seeking freedom and serious reforms, I am working to end the violence. I appealed to President Assad to remove his forces from the cities. He told me he would, and today we learned that he has begun to do just that."
Kucinich is the epitome of a useful idiot by his very words and actions.