09/30/2011, 00.00
SYRIA
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Syria slides toward civil war. The opposition arms

by JPG
Divisions continue among the various opposition groups inside and outside the country; the appropriateness of foreign intervention is discussed. Favour for the military option grows among the opposition. The Battle of Rastan.
Damascus (AsiaNews) – Divisions among groups opposing President Bashar al-Assad's regime continue, and even increase. The main areas of disagreement relate to the dilemma of "peaceful revolution or armed struggle," and the methods of support or of intervention from other countries. There have been appeals made by the internal opposition to accept the leadership role of the "Syrian National Council", formed in Istanbul this past August. But on September 29, the writer Michel Kilo, who is Greek-orthodox, for years respected as an opposition figure, and one of the instigators of the "National Committee for Democratic Change" recently formed in Syria, told the local Agence France-Presse that many opposition members within Syria reject the directives of the "Syrian National Council". According to Kilo, this Council is in favor of foreign (military) intervention in Syria, a move that, according to him, the majority of the internal opposition rejects.

Another theme is that of armed struggle. A growing number of critics believe it necessary to bring about the regime's downfall, because six months of "peaceful revolution" do not appear to have been successful. In fact, the armed struggle is already underway in different parts of Syrian territory, especially in the province of Homs, and specifically in the town of Rastan, where many soldiers gathered after "defecting" for reasons of conscience. The clashes lasted several days. Yesterday evening, the state news agency Sana said that "after a joint operation by the army and police forces in Rastan, numerous armed terrorists were liquidated and others arrested with weapons, ammunition and explosives", while seven military soldiers died, including two officers, and another 32 soldiers were wounded, including seven officers. Sana also denies that the air force has intervened, contrary to what was stated by various non-Syrian media.

Between the regime and the opposition a real war of words is also underway, including one in recent days over the death of several scientific and military personalities in the city of Homs. The regime says they were victims of "armed terrorists", while opposition sources accuse members of the secret services and pro-Assad "Shabiha" militias. On September 29, Syrian television aired the confession of a "repentant" terrorist, who said he was an accomplice of those murderers. By now, a "confession" from a terrorist-turned-informant is part of the daily news programming, in addition to Damascus military funerals of those fallen in defense of the regime.

The regime's "war of words" is also carried out via an "Electronic Syrian Army", created a few months back under the government's support and comprised of "volunteers" who fight on the web to "defend the homeland" against "lies" circulating through the work of certain television stations (Al- Jazeera, Al Arabiya, etc.) or through websites and Facebook information. There is also a new website (Arabsyria.com), intended to defend Syria in Arab countries.

Even the numbers controversy continues. While the UN says that over 2,700 civilians have been killed in Syria since March (including one hundred children), Dr. Butheina Chaaban, President Assad's councillor for policy and information, responds that 700 soldiers and law enforcement officers have been killed, as well as 700 "rebels". But he says nothing of the dead who are neither military, nor police, nor "rebels", but ordinary citizens who had the misfortune to live in a neighborhood or village bombed by artillery, or attend funerals that became occasions of military interventions.
 
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