Aleppo Braces for Mass Protests
Aleppo, Syria's second most populous city, braced for a mass rallies Thursday after activists called on protesters to "light the spark of the revolution," Gulf News reports.
Protests against President Bashar Al Assad's regime.in Aleppo have been relatively muted affairs to date, but a Facebook group at the center of Syria's popular uprising has now called on Syrians across the country to mobilize and march on the city's commercial hub to demand the regime's downfall.
The Syrian Revolution 2011 group also urged people to continue to rally after Friday afternoon Muslim prayers, which have become weekly flashpoints of dissent against the Assad regime's brutal suppression of protest in Syria, branding this coming July 1 as "the Friday of departure."
"Revolutionaries, come to Aleppo and Idleb provinces... and go to central Aleppo... to protest and to light the spark of the Revolution," the activists urged.
Assad's troops meanwhile pressed on with a campaign to quash dissent in northwestern villages, killing more civilians, despite international condemnation and new US sanctions against regime pillars and Syria's top ally, Iran.
The pressure on Assad from within and without has led regional observers to question whether Assad will launch an attack on Israel, perhaps in conjunction with Hizbullah, to deflect attention from his domestic woes.
A Kuwait-based newspaper claimed Wednesday Israel had sent a back-channel message to Assad saying he would be personally targeted if he did decide to attack Israel.
Eleven people were shot dead Wednesday when soldiers backed by tanks and armored personnel carriers rolled into villages in the northwestern province of Idleb, human rights observers say.
The troops reportedly stormed Mar-Ayan and Ihsem villages on Wednesday, a day after tanks rumbled into Al Rami, near the main road leading to Aleppo.
"They are currently at the outskirts of Al Bara," a hamlet known for its Roman remains, Abdul Rahman, a human rights observer, said on Wednesday. "The soldiers are deployed in the villages and are conducting searches."
According to Abdul Rahman, 1,353 civilians have been killed since mid-March in a crackdown by Assad's regime on the reformist movement and 343 security force personnel have also died.
The crackdown has also seen thousands of Syrians arrested since pro-democracy protests erupted against Assad's regime and almost 50 years of iron-gauntlet rule by the Baath party.