by Martin McDonald
Yesterday saw 500,000 people take to the streets in the Syrian city of Hama in yet another day of sustained protest against the government. The protests came one day after the visit of US Senator Robert Ford’s visit to the area, a visit which has outraged Syria’s authorities. The United States issued a release to the media explicitly stating that the purpose of the visit was to underline USA support for Syrian voices calling for change.
Damascus responded angrily to this development, citing the comments as evidence of United States government interference in Syria’s internal affairs to the detriment of Syria’s security and stability.
Activists said yesterday that the protests signalled wide scale rejection of the government’s planned National Dialogue conference, scheduled to commence on Sunday.
Pressure continues to build on the Syrian government with the news of at least 13 more deaths across the country during yesterday’s protests. More video footage has come into the public domain showing badly injured protesters who say they have been beaten and tortured by the police and security forces as part of the ongoing military crackdown on the calls for an end to the rule of the Ba’ath Party. With people fleeing the city of Hama as well as protesting, the mood in the air does not appear to be one which is conducive to dialogue at this time.
Demonstrations are expected to continue in the midst of seemingly escalating government military action to quell widespread protest. The authorities in Syria continue to claim that the civil disturbances across the country are being caused by “armed criminal gangs”.