Thousands of Syrian protesters appealed Friday for international help in the face of President Bashar Assad’s bloody crackdown, The Associated Press reported.
The demand marks a change in the six-month old revolt in Syria, which began with modest calls for reform and an insistence that there be no foreign intervention whatsoever.
But, AP noted, as the crackdown continues and the death toll tops 2,200 people, the protesters are increasingly calling for some sort of outside help, largely in the form of observation missions and human rights monitors who could help deter attacks on civilians.
According to the report, the protesters shouted, “We want international protection!” as they took to the streets in cities across the country after Friday prayers.
The protests were in flashpoint areas, including the Damascus suburbs, the central city of Homs and Idlib province near the Turkish border. The report noted that, as usual, security forces opened fire on Friday’s marches, killing several people including a 15-year-old boy, but the death toll was not immediately clear.
The Al-Quds newspaper reported earlier that Assad has declared a state of war and issued a general mobilization of troops.
Operation “Bayrak al-Assad” was implemented secretly, and is a “major military operation” requiring full mobilization of military forces in Syria for concentrated offensives on cities across the country in order to eliminate “terrorists who threaten us,” according to the report.
On Friday Syria state television also broadcast footage of so-called ‘terrorists’ confessing to building bombs in order to attack civilians and Syrian forces in Latakia.
AP reported that Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, considered Syria’s strongest ally and who has previously called on Assad to talk to the opposition, repeated that call on Wednesday. On Friday, added the report, the Islamic Republic’s President proposed a regional meeting in Tehran on the Syrian crisis.
“We are prepared to sit down with Islamic nations and hurry to reach a more collective understanding on helping Syria,” Ahmadinejad was quoted by Iran’s official IRNA news agency as having said. “Islamic nations, independent of foreigners, should reach an understanding with each other on helping Syria.”
Meanwhile, State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said Friday the Syrian protesters were appealing for the kind of action the U.S. wanted the UN Security Council to adopt.
Speaking to reporters, Nuland said, “They’re asking for the Syrian government to allow international monitors into Syria to monitor the human rights situation. We are working with some of the Security Council members to get a new resolution that not only can provide this kind of monitoring on the human rights side, but can also strengthen sanctions against the Assad regime.”
(Arutz Sheva’s North American Desk is keeping you updated until the start of Shabbat in New York. The time posted automatically on all Arutz Sheva articles, however, is Israeli time.)