The opposition in Syria staged a general strike on Sunday in Damascus, the stronghold of President Bashar Assad, as battles raging throughout the country left at least 100 dead and scores wounded.
The capital is the home of tens of thousands of government employees, who generally have been loyal to Assad during the nine-month Arab Spring uprising.
Meanwhile, France accused Syria of being behind attacks that wounded French soldiers in the United Nations Interim Forces in Lebanon (UNIFIL) on Friday.
Most of Damascus was shut down, but Assad’s soldiers forced some shopkeepers to open their stores, and in some cases simply kicked in the doors and opened the stores themselves.
Indicative of Assad’s weakness and paranoia was a report from the Egyptian newspaper Al Ahram Sunday that his aides are afraid of an assassination attempt on the president-dictator.
SANA, the official government news agency, is acting as if nothing unusual is going on in the country except for ”terrorists” who have killed several soldiers. Hundreds of troops have defected, and there were heavy casualties on both sides in Sunday’s battles that brought the country closer to a civil war.
The death toll since the beginning of the uprising is impossible to verify because of the government ban on foreign journalists and its jamming of Internet connections, but the number 4,000 appears to be an understatement.
In addition, thousands have been wounded.
The tension crossed the border into Jordan on Sunday when weekly protests outside Syria's embassy turned into a brawl between opposition activists and embassy employees.
Syrian and opposition sources accused each other of starting the fracas. Embassy employees said they were attacked inside the embassy by the protesters, who claimed that the embassy workers instigated the fight, which sent several people to the hospital.