A video shows Syrians soldiers allowing protesters to board their tanks, but the army killed 40 more demonstrators the past two days and crushed an attempt in a Damascus suburb to from a shadow government. The video was taken in eastern Syria Saturday.
The spread of violence to the capital may be the beginning of the end of Syrian President Bashar Assad, who has lost virtually all sympathy outside of Russia, Iran and Lebanon. Syrian forces killed at least 23 people in Damascus and it suburbs on Friday, the worst carnage in the capital since the beginning of the four-month old Arab Spring uprising.
The army attacked a group of dissidents planning to hold a conference towards forming a shadow government and unifying the opposition, something that the uprising has been lacking. At least 14 opposition members were shot dead, and the owner of the building where the conference was to take place was threatened by secret police, sources told Reuters.
Meanwhile, protests and more killings continued in other parts of the country Friday and Saturday as the death toll rises beyond the estimated 1,500. More than 20,000 others have been detained or have “disappeared.”
Assad retains the support of his army, but the video of protesters freely mounting tanks is a sign that the loyalty is weakening. Last month, soldiers turned their guns on more than 100 comrades who tried fleeing across the Turkish border. The official SANA government news agency told the public that the soldiers that the defectors actually loyal soldiers who were allegedly killed by “armed gangs” who supposed are sowing dissidence in the country.
In Turkey, dissidents gathered to discuss forming a formal opposition. U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who is visiting Turkey and has been a harsh critic of Assad after initially referring to him as a “reformer” stated, “We’re encouraged by what we see the Syrian people are doing for themselves… I think we don’t know how this is going to end yet.”