Deadly Syrian Crackdown Grows; Forces Overtake Major Capital Suburb

Washington, July 22 - Syrian troops this week invaded a large suburb in the capital of Damascus, shutting down entrances to the area and arresting residents as part of President Bashar al-Assad’s campaign to crush the burgeoning four-month uprising in that country.

Hundreds of forces loyal to Assad entered the 150,000-person suburb of Harasta and cut off water, electricity and phones Wednesday, according to witness accounts. The minority Alawite government has killed at least 1,400 people and detained more than 12,000, human rights and activists have reported.

In the city of Homs, sectarian violence between the government and the majority-Sunni citizens claimed scores of lives on Monday (July 18). The following day, government forces killed 13 people attending the victims’ funerals.

Despite the crackdown, citizens amplified their protests Friday following noon prayers. Another five people were killed today (Friday) as the protests continued across the country after noon prayers, including in Homs. Activists have been streaming footage of the protests, showing the widespread opposition to Assad’s 41-year rule of Syria.

The violence on Friday (July 22) prompted France to issue a condemnation of the Syrian government’s actions. The French Foreign Ministry said in a statement that it deplores “repression by the Syrian authorities, who continue ... to arrest and kill their own population daily." Also, according to the statement, "the army and other security forces will have to account for their actions."

Also on the international front, the European Union said it is mulling more sanctions against Syria and former Syrian-backer Qatar this week closed its Damascus embassy.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said earlier this week in an interview broadcast on Al Arabiya that his country won’t intervene in the uprising but said the Syrian people are showing “enormous courage” in the face of Assad’s deadly siege of large parts of Syria.

Syrians, the prime minister said, “deserve a good future. One of peace and one of freedom.”

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