Syrian President Bashar Assad’s tanks and helicopters attacked the northern city of Jisr al-Shugur Sunday under the protection of the government’s Big Lie: Protesters are terrorists. Defectors are martyrs, and protesters against the Assad regime actually are rallying in his support, according to the government spin.
Assad has used SANA, the official government news agency, to try to fight against YouTube videos and text messages secreted out of the country, where foreign media have been banned since the protest movement began nine weeks ago.
Before Sunday’s onslaught, SANA claimed that 120 soldiers were murdered by supposed “armed groups,” but all other reports have exposed the story as a lie. It is true that 120 soldiers were killed, but they were defectors who were gunned down by troops loyal to Assad.
State television told citizens that the army entered the city, near the border with Turkey, to "cleanse the national hospital from the elements of the armed gangs after disabling the explosives and the various TNT devices that these gangs planted on the bridges and roads."
U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on Sunday condemned Syria's brutality, saying that “the Syrian authorities have an obligation to protect their people and respect their rights. The use of military force against civilians is unacceptable.”
His pleas, like those from Western leaders, fell on deaf ears. Assad has been avoiding calls from Ban. U.N. spokesman Martin Nesirky said that Ban tried to reach Assad several times, but he would not come to the phone, according the Reform Party of Syria.
“The Secretary General has been keen to speak to Assad. He tried to place a call yesterday but unfortunately the president was not available,” Nesirky said Friday evening. “He tried to place the call more than one time but he was not available.”
More than 5,000 refugees have fled to Turkey, including soldiers who defected rather than continuing gunning down unarmed civilians. Several loyal soldiers used cows and livestock for target practice during the assault.
However, SANA repeated the government line that reports of defectors are part of media conspiracy against Assad, and members of “terrorist groups” target “the army, people and media correspondents.”
Despite the supposed attack “at the entrance of Jisr al-Shughour by the armed terrorist groups which opened heavy fire on them,” the journalists somehow escaped injury, SANA reported. It stated, “All the correspondents and photographers are fine and no casualties among them were reported.”
It also quoted a police officer who told Syrian TV, "My friends called me saying that some TV channels gave my name as defected and that I was killed by security forces… The purpose of such media reports is incitement… We call upon our citizens not to watch or believe these channels".
The govern-run media also is leaning on its ally Russia, which is bucking all efforts by the United Nations to condemn Assad and slap sanctions on the country.
“The Russian Pravda newspaper condemned the west and America' continuous efforts to interfere in Syria's internal affairs, launching a large-scale incitement campaign and taking unjust procedures against it,” SANA reported.
“America and Israel worked together to put more pressure on Syria through taking unjust procedures against it and providing financial and media support to the so-called Syrian opposition with the aim of defamation and increasing internal tension,” SANA added.