Tuesday, June 07, 2011

Syria Continues Brutal Crackdown and Questions Emerge About Incident in Syria's Jisr Al-Shugur?

What exactly has happened in the town of Jisr Al-Shugur? State run media outlets keep inflating the death toll in the town to 120 security and police killed by opposition protesters, but protest and human rights groups dispute those figures.

In fact, some are even claiming that the violence was sparked when Syrian troops defected or otherwise refused to crack down on protesters.
Many opposition figures and local residents disputed official Syrian media reports of what was happening in the town, Jisr al-Shoughour.

Some said the violence was set off by the defection of soldiers sent to besiege the town Saturday, a number of them seeking refuge with the citizens of the town, according to a statement by an opposition group, Local Coordinating Committees in Syria.

The number of dead ballooned throughout the day as state media described a massacre at the hands of unidentified gunmen and said residents were pleading for the army to intervene. But state television provided few details of the dead and no images of the town. Instead, throughout the day an ever-higher estimate of fatalities scrolled across the bottom of Syrian television screens against a video backdrop of girls frolicking in ponds and Syrian children singing patriotic songs.

Neither the government’s nor the opposition’s version of events could be independently verified, but both would represent a troubling escalation in the popular uprising — and the bloody government crackdown — that has gripped Syria since mid-March. Although the protests in many Syrian cities have been peaceful, the government of President Bashar Assad has claimed that it faces an armed insurrection by extremists and terrorists, possibly to justify the widespread deployment of troops and tanks to crush dissent.

There have been sporadic armed clashes with opponents of the government during the revolt, and human rights groups did not rule out the possibility of violent reprisals against troops by people who lived in Jisr al-Shoughour, a Sunni Muslim area that has a history of support for the outlawed Muslim Brotherhood.

Telephone and Internet service to the town was heavily disrupted last night. But residents reached by phone described chaotic scenes of mass flight and street barricades hastily erected by the people to defend against the return of security forces.

“The army split; the confrontation is between them,’’ said Saeb Jamil, a local activist who said he was helping people flee to the nearby Turkish border. “The army is confronting the army.’’
There's no way to confirm the events, but if we take the Syrian media outlets at their word, we can expect Assad's regime to engage in harsh reprisals against the town along the lines of the brutal Hama massacre carried out by Assad's father a generation ago. That's what dictators and despots do. When faced with existential threats to their regimes, dictators, despots, and autocrats will not hesitate to use force to maintain their power and control.

Syrian Palestinians are blaming the PFLP for the clashes along the Golan border with Israel, and further clashes erupted in the Syrian refugee camps between mourners and unidentified elements who opened fire on the mourners who were angry at both the Syrian regime and the PFLP for manipulating the situation:

14 or more Palestinians were killed in the Yarmouk refugee camp near Damascus when security guards opened fire on angry mourners who attacked PFLP faction leaders for precipitating the Golan border incident over the weekend.

It would not be surprising that Assad was using the PFLP to manipulate the Palestinians to deflect attention from Assad's brutal crackdown. It is surprising though that the Palestinians are beginning to realize that they have no friend in Assad or the PFLP. Palestinians need to realize that they can't expect to eliminate Israel and that a 2-state solution is in their best interests but the Arab regimes and terror groups are operating to thwart those ambitions and aspirations.

The ICC is being asked to investigate Syrian war crimes but the ICC doesn't have jurisdiction to act since Syria has not ratified the Rome Treaty:
Syrian and international rights groups say they have drawn hope from the ICC prosecutor's speed in calling for the arrest of Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi and others over the violence in Libya, and a willingness to investigate Ivory Coast and Kenya.

Damascus has not signed the 2002 Rome Statue that set up the court, which means the ICC does not have jurisdiction in Syria, unless the U.N. Security Council refers it to the court.

Amnesty International called on the Security Council to refer Syria to the ICC.
Cracks appear in the Syrian regime for the first time. A Syrian minister has resigned and additional witnesses from Jisr Al-Shugur have cast doubt on the Syrian official position about the deaths of 120 security personnel.
Syria’s ambassador to France resigned on Tuesday to protest the violence in her country, according to France 24 news, as details continued to emerge about a violent confrontation in a town that Syrian state media described as “a massacre” by “armed gangs” that left 120 people dead, most of them police and security forces.

The resignation by the diplomat, Lamia Shakkour, is a blow to the government of President Bashar al-Assad. Syria and France have long-standing and close ties.

In the town where the clashes occurred, Jisr al-Shoughour, local residents reached by telephone disputed the official account of the violence. They said fighting erupted over the weekend following a wave of defections from military forces sent to besiege the town, where there was a large anti-government protest on Friday. Syria has been gripped since mid-March by an unprecedented popular uprising against the government of Mr. Assad, whose family has ruled with an iron fist for four decades.

Syria bars foreign journalists from entering the country and neither the government’s nor resident’s account of events could be independently verified. Nevertheless, either version would represent a serious escalation in both the chaos and violence of the Syrian uprising and harsh government efforts to crush it.
If we see additional resignations among the diplomatic corps, Assad could be in real trouble, especially if those who are resigning join up with the opposition and are able to form a viable opposition that could eventually be recognized as a legitimate entity to assume power if Assad is removed.

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