Syrians Vote Despite Battles in the Street

Syrians went out to vote in a nationwide municipal election Monday, despite continued violence and a feeling the polls were useless.

Chana Ya'ar ,

Syrian President Bashar Assad
Syrian President Bashar Assad
Israel news photo: Flash 90

Syrians went out to vote in municipal elections Monday despite the battles that raged in the streets between government troops and army defectors, and a feeling by some that in any case, the effort was useless.

More than 17,000 seats on local councils across the country's 14 provinces are up for grabs, but turnout was reportedly low.

Most opposition members have said they do not consider the poll to be a legitimate reflection of political reforms promised by President Bashar al-Assad to improve his standing with protesters.

At least seven people were killed as the Syrian army continued its crackdown on anti-government protesters, according to the London-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

Fighting was especially fierce in the northwestern province of Idlib, the central city of Homs and the southern Dara'a province as the general strike called by protesters in their campaign of civil disobedience entered its second day.

The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees said Monday preparations are being made for an influx of refugees into Jordan as Syrians increasingly seek asylum in the neighboring Hashemite Kingdom from the violence.

The government of President Bashar al-Assad officially denied involvement in an attack last week that wounded four French members of the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL). France accused Damascus of being behind the attack, although Foreign Minister Alain Juppe acknowledged that he had no proof.

An opposition leader quoted by Voice of America said Damascus had warned protesters in Homs to surrender their weapons and hand over army defectors by Monday night or facing a bombing campaign by the Syrian Army.

Nevertheless, Syria's Local Coordination Committee has urged local citizens to increase protests incrementally through sit-ins, closures and refusals to work in public offices.

More than 4,000 Syrians have been killed since the anti-government protests began in mid-March, inspired by the region-wide "Arab Spring" grassroots uprisings that have swept the entire Middle East and to date, toppled at least four other Arab governments. Thousands of others have been injured and many tortured -- including children -- after being arbitrarily arrested and detained by government troops. Some have later "disappeared."