Activists report clashes between Syrian army units
More than 500 people have been killed across Syria â€” about 100 in Daraa alone â€” since the popular revolt against Assad began in mid-March, according to human rights groups.
While the infighting in Daraa does not indicate any decisive splits in the military, it is significant because Assad’s army always has been seen as a bastion of support for the regime. The Syrian military has denied that there had been any splits in the military.
On Thursday, more soldiers in armored personnel carriers rolled into Daraa, where residents huddled inside homes in fear amid the blasts of mortars and heavy gunfire, as well as snipers on high rooftops and mosques, a resident said by satellite telephone. Like other witnesses in Syria, he spoke on condition of anonymity for fear of government retaliation.
Ausama Monajed, a spokesman for a group of opposition figures in Syria and abroad, said the clashes among the soldiers have occurred since Assad sent the army into Daraa on Monday. The deployment was a clear escalation in his crackdown on the uprising.
"There are some battalions that refused to open fire on the people," Monajed told The Associated Press, citing witnesses on the ground in Daraa. "Battalions of the 5th Division were protecting people, and returned fire when they were subjected to attacks by the 4th Division."
The 4th division is run by the president’s brother, Maher.
The reports were corroborated by three witnesses in Daraa and an activist contacted by the AP. All four asked that their names not be used for fear of reprisals.
A witness in Daraa told the AP that he saw soldiers from different army units clashing Monday in front of the Bilal mosque in central Daraa, when Syrian forces rolled into town. He said the battle between the forces lasted for several hours.
"We saw ordinary soldiers fall," the resident said. "And then I heard people shout "God is great! They are martyrs of freedom!"
Syria has banned nearly all foreign media and restricted access to trouble spots since the uprising began, making it almost impossible to verify the dramatic events shaking one of the most authoritarian, anti-Western regimes in the Arab world.
The government has blamed armed thugs and a foreign conspiracy for the unrest, not true reform seekers.
State-run Syrian TV has run running lingering, gruesome close-ups of dead soldiers, their eyes blown out and parts of their limbs missing, to back up their claims that they were under attack.
In a further blow to Assad, more than 200 members have quit Syria’s ruling Baath Party in the southern province, a human rights activist said.
On Wednesday night, six tanks rolled into the key northern port of Latakia â€” in the heartland of Syria’s ruling elite â€” and security forces opened fire on anti government demonstrators, wounding six, witnesses said.
Unrest in Latakia is significant because the province has strong historical ties to Assad’s minority Alawite sect, an offshoot of Shiite Islam. Latakia is home to a diverse mix of religious groups, with mostly Sunni Muslims in the urban core and Alawites in the countryside. At least 14 people died in clashes in the city during the earlier days of the uprising, raising fears that the violence could take on a sectarian tone in coming days or weeks.
Assad has tried to crush the revolt â€” the gravest challenge to his family’s 40-year ruling dynasty.
In the Damascus suburb of Douma, security forces strengthened their control, fortifying checkpoints on roads into the area and setting up sand barriers, a resident said.
"Security is so tight around Douma that even birds can’t go in," he said, adding that security forces with lists of wanted people continued to detain residents in the area.
Troops were using heavy machine guns Thursday in Daraa, said resident Abdullah Abazeid. He added that snipers killed more people and that 43 have died since the military arrived Monday.
The latest deaths include a 6-year-old girl, hit by a sniper Wednesday on the roof of her parents’ apartment. He added that pro-government gunmen known as "shabiha" damaged a large numbers of shops in the city.
Abazeid said they were still hiding the bodies of the dead because the cemetery was occupied by Syrian forces belonging to Unit Four, considered the fiercest and most violent of the troops in the town.
The city was still without telephones, electricity and water and lacked food and infant formula, he said, adding that some parents were giving their children water and sugar for lack of powder milk.
UN warns of growing risks of starvation in Gaza, urging end to conflict
At least 112 civilians killed in northern Gaza while waiting for aid, Palestinian health ministry says
Israel deploys tanks, armored vehicles to Lebanese border
Russian FM visits Türkiye for Antalya Diplomacy Forum
Azerbaijan, Albania abolish visa regime
Azerbaijani FM meets with Slovak counterpart
Le Monde: France considering possibility of allowing military units to cross border of Ukraine
Turkish, Armenian FMs meet
Albanian Prime Minister: Azerbaijan taking over the torch of the COP can't be more revealing
US Ambassador speaks about importance of Southern Gas Corridor
Edi Rama: Southern Gas Corridor has made Europe safer
Presentation of "Qarabag FC - 30 seasons away" documentary held in Heyda Aliyev Center-PHOTO
Next meeting on Türkiye-Armenia dialogue to be held
Prime Minister of Albania Edi Rama completes working visit to Azerbaijan
God Nisanov presented Azerbaijan's "Dostlug" Order in Moscow
Azerbaijan can count on EU's support regarding COP29 - Commissioner for Energy
President Ilham Aliyev had expanded meeting with Prime Minister of Albania
Azerbaijan to increase gas exports this year
Alexei Navalny buried in Moscow
Establishing Working Group for Azerbaijani-Philippine Interparliamentary Relations is underway
Contract signed to build solar power plant in Azerbaijan's Jabrayil
10th Southern Gas Corridor Advisory Council Ministerial Meeting went underway with sessions
Azerbaijani MoD: 36 260 ha of land cleared from mines so far-VIDEO
Prime Minister of Greece congratulates Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev
Azerbaijani FM: Unity of Turkic world is of special importance in face of new challenges in world
Baku hosts 6th ministerial meeting on development and transmission of green energy
Türkiye to continue normalization process with Armenia in coordination with Azerbaijan
Azerbaijan, EU to accelerate process of granting PMI status to Caspian-EU Green Energy Corridor
Azerbaijan, Armenia are very close to normalize their relations - Turkish Foreign Minister
Azerbaijan, Albania sign visa waiver agreement
Azerbaijan to lay foundation of two power plants during COP29 eve
Azerbaijani President receives EU Commissioner for Energy -UPDATED
ANAMA found nearly 600 landmines in Azerbaijan's liberated territories in February
Azerbaijani President held one-on-one meeting with Albanian Prime Minister-UPDATED
President Ilham Aliyev: Hosting COP29 is a sign of our willingness to contribute our green agenda
EU and Azerbaijan mull cooperation in field of energy
Azerbaijan, UAE discuss areas of collaboration within COP29
President Ilham Aliyev received Italy's Minister for Environment and Energy Security -UPDATED
Azerbaijan to make crucial decisions within framework of COP29 - MP
Toivo Klaar: Signing peace treaty between Azerbaijan and Armenia in near future is real issue
Azerbaijani FM meets with his counterpart from Uzbekistan
Azerbaijan, Albania sign Agreement on economic cooperation
EU Special Representative hopes for achievement of peace between Azerbaijan and Armenia this year
Armenia's departure from Eurasian Economic Union not on agenda - Parliament vice president