Syria Used Excessive Force Against Civilians, White House Says
The White House officially denounced on Monday Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's lethal crackdown on anti-government demonstrators over the weekend.
At least one person was killed and more than 100 hundred injured in Dera'a, a southern city in Syria, after Syrian security forces opened fire on anti-government protesters. White House spokesman Tommy Veitor said reports from the crackdown indicated that Syrian forces used "disproportionate force" against civilians, including protesters and mourners of those killed in previous anti-government rallies.
"We call on the Syrian government to allow demonstrations to take place peacefully. Those responsible for the violence over the weekend must be held accountable," Vietor said.
Described as a "sleepy city" of around 75,000 people, Dera'a seems to have reignited Syria's democratic movement after more than a dozen teenagers were arrested last week for painting anti-regime graffiti on a wall.
Despite the reports, a Syrian official denied that anyone was killed in the crackdown, the AFP reported.
The aggressive suppression of protests in Syria highlights a high level of anxiety amongst Assad's inner circle regarding anti-government momentum.
U.S. State Dept. spokesman Mark Toner echoed Veitor's statement, calling on Assad and his government to "exercise restraint and refrain from violence" against the protesters.
"We call on the Syrian government to live up to its obligations under the universal declaration of human rights and allow the Syrian people to exercise the universal right of assembly," he said.
Syria's revitalized demonstrations took place over the weekend in the capital of Damascus, Banias, Homs, Deir Ezzor and Dera'a after last Friday's prayers. Since then, the violence has risen tremendously as security forces attempting to control the crowds fired upon the rallies.
The Economist reported that at least four protesters were killed over the weekend.
Assad and his Ba'athist-led "republican monarchy" has ruled Syria for roughly 51 years, and its been long assumed that the government was the next logical choice to succumb to the Arab democratic revolution.
Yet Assad himself begged to differ, according to the Guardian.
"We are not Egyptians or Tunisians," he said. Syria might have "more difficult circumstances than most of the Arab countries" but it was "stable".
So far, Assad's response has fused the oppressive tactics that have kept his Ba’athist regime in power with relatively unorthodox methods of reconciliation. He has sent a delegation to Dera'a to promise an investigation to the families of those killed.
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