MUSTAPHA AJBAILI AND ABEER TAYEL
Al Arabiya and Agencies
April 23, 2011
At least 90 people were reportedly killed and dozens were injured when Syrian security forces fired live bullets and teargas to disperse “Good Friday” protests in several cities, witnesses reported. The death toll seemed to be rising late Friday.
The reported deaths have created a new crisis for the regime of President Bashar al-Assad, raising questions about whether he is fully in control of Syrian security forces. The deaths raise questions about how far Mr. Assad is prepared to go to stay in power, and if the international community will take steps to prevent a humanitarian disaster in this geopolitically strategic Arab country.
The deaths on Friday also bring back memories of large numbers of political opponents who were mowed down by security forces in the city of Hama when Mr. Assad’s late father, President Hafez al-Assad was in office. Mr. Assad’s brother, Rifaat al-Assad, personally conducted a “scorched earth” campaign in February 1982 against Sunni Muslims who protested against the Alawite regime of Hafez al-Assad. Estimates of those killed in Hama range from 10,000 to 40,000.