Druze Anti-Assad Leader Dies in Syria
A Syrian Druze leader opposed to President Bashar al-Assad was killed Saturday in the city of Soueida, the Syrian Waqf Ministry and Druze Unitarians' Sect has announced.
Druze Sheikh Ahmed Sleiman (Salman) Al-Hijri's death was blamed on “a car accident,” according to the statement released by the Syrian government's Syrian News Agency (SANA).
The news, announced in a terse statement devoid of details, was also immediately reported by the Lebanese Ministry of Information.
One day earlier, Lebanon's Druze leader, Walid Jumblatt, made headlines by announcing his support for Syria's anti-government force. He also called on Russia to find a way to remove Assad and his family from the picture, and allow the Syrian people to settle their destiny in dignity and peace.
Assad's troops have been accused by the New York-based Human Right Watch organization of using Syrian civilians as human shields as they advance their war on opposition forces across the nation, now entering its second year.
Jumblatt also marked the 35th anniversary of the assassination of his father Kamal Jumblatt Friday. The younger Jumblatt took over his father's leadership during the 1975-1990 Lebanese civil war after his father was shot to death on March 16, 1977.
At that time and for years after, he supported Syrian intervention in the civil war -- even while blaming Damascus for the deaths of his father and former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri in a massive 2005 car bombing in Beirut that killed 20 others as well. Syria denied the charges, and Jumblatt later reconciled with Damascus five years later, but said, “I forgive, but I do not forget.”
As he spread a Syrian revolution flag over the grave, he declared, “After 35 years, this is the day to tell the truth, to myself and to others... Long live free Syria!...The Syrian people will stay, but dictators will go.”