At dawn today, hundreds of police agents and members of the security forces, the infamous ‘Mukhabarat’, took over strategic sites ahead of the planned opposition’s protest. Checkpoints were set up in the main cities to allow police to check identities.
Tensions are particularly high in Homs, scene of bloody clashes in recent days. Human rights organisations have reported that 228 people have been killed since protests began a month ago.
Unrest began first in Deraa, southern Syria, before spreading to the capital, Aleppo, Baniyas and Homs, drawing in more and more people.
The regime has reacted to the challenge with a two-pronged approach: gestures of overture on the one hand, and an iron fist on the other.
The opposition’s response has been to raise the ante, going so far as to call for the president to resign.
Bashar al-Assad, who took over after his father Hafez al-Assad died 11 years ago, blamed the unrest on radical Salafi groups.