Homs, the city of one million has been scene of extensive military operations to suppress regular protests and a nascent armed insurgency that has emerged after a relentless crackdown on persistent demonstrations calling for more political freedoms.With the NATO operations winding down in Libya in support of the Libyan Transitional Council efforts to wrest control of the country from Khadafi and his loyalists, they may now be more attuned to the plight of the Syrian opposition. The Syrian opposition has grown more cohesive and formed an actual council akin to the Libyan effort. That is key to generating support among international diplomats and leveraging defectors among the Syrian elites to encourage NATO to consider action.
"Gaddafi is finished. It is your turn now Bashar!" shouted demonstrators in the town of Maaret al-Numaan in the northwestern province of Idlib, according to one witness.
"Prepare yourself Assad!" chanted protesters in the town of Tayyana in the tribal province of Deir al-Zor, on the border with Iraq's Sunni Muslim heartland.
Assad, an ophthalmologist who inherited power from his late father in 2000, strengthened ties with Gaddafi months before the Arab Spring wave of popular unrest against repressive ruling elites erupted in Tunisia in December.
The two countries struck a series of cooperation deals and Assad later allowing a Syrian-based satellite station to broadcast messages from Gaddafi while he was on the run. He was killed in unclear circumstances after his capture on Thursday.
In the town of Houla northwest of Homs, a crowd of several thousands held shoulders and waved old Syrian flags dating to before Assad's Baath party took power in a coup 48 years ago.
"Doctor, you are next!" read banners carried by the villagers, according to live video footage.
Demonstrations also broke out in Homs, the provincial capital 140 km (85 miles) north of Damascus, where three members of same family were also shot dead at an army road block in Bab Sbaa district on their way to prayers, local activists said.
There are key differences though. For starters, Assad has largely kept his attacks against protesters to ground operations and he has significant support from terror groups like Hizbullah and Hamas, both of which have major operations and key leaders encamped in Damascus. More importantly, Assad has the support of Iran, which backs his regime and is likely to counter any Western efforts in a much more direct manner.
So, for now, the Syrian opposition has an uphill battle to counter Assad's built-in advantages.