The Syrian opposition on Wednesday warned President Bashar Al Assad to either steer his country's peaceful transition to democracy or suffer the fate of former dictators in Egypt and Tunisia.
The National Initiative for Change — an opposition constellation with members in Syria and abroad — urged the President to “safeguard the nation from falling into a period of violence, chaos and civil war,” by overseeing a democratic transition. “If the Syrian President does not wish to be recorded in history as a leader of this transition period, there is no alternative left for Syrians except to move forward along the same path as did the Tunisians, Egyptians and Libyans before them,” said the statement.
Despite the ultimatum, the Syrian regime continued to parade its military might in areas which have been the flashpoint of protests.
Hoping to keep out protesters from Damascus, the government deployed around 30 tanks on the circular highway outside the capital. Troops also crammed Douma, a Damascus suburb. Reuters reported that heavily armed soldiers had been brought in white buses into Douma. Observers say the President's brother, Maher Assad, who heads the Fourth Mechanised Division, has taken charge of confronting protesters in this area.
The army had also been deployed around Baniyas, another restive city, on the Mediterranean. On Tuesday around 2,000 protesters had taken to the streets, chanting slogans for political reforms.
Tensions continue to run high in impoverished city of Daraa, the cradle of the over a month long pro-democracy protests.
Sawasiah, a Syrian human rights organisation, said a heavy crackdown was under way in the city, with tanks firing inside residential areas. The city was without water, electricity, and telecommunication access. In hospitals, blood supplies had started to run low.
On Monday, the Syrian army had attacked protesters and killed 11 of them in a pre-dawn raid. So intense was the violence that no one dared to pick up the bodies which lay in the streets of Daraa on Tuesday, said residents.
Acknowledging that the unrest had not abated, the state-run news agency, SANA said late on Tuesday the Army “continued to chase armed groups and extremists in Daraa who attacked military positions, cut off roads and forced passers-by to stop so they could hit them”.
The sharp escalation in violence has caused the regime's close allies to call for restraint. Turkey's Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan has urged Mr. Bashar to lower the threshold of violence and pursue reforms. “Of course the lifting of the state of emergency is a good start, but this is not enough... Syria must take many other steps,” said Mr. Erdogan, following a telephonic conversation with Mr. Assad on Tuesday. He announced that a Turkish delegation would visit Damascus on Thursday to discuss the crisis. “We don't want... an authoritarian, totalitarian regime” in Syria, he said. “We wish that... the process of democratisation is rapidly pursued.”
Analysts say Syria, which shares a border with Turkey, wants to prevent refugees from flowing into its territory.