Protests Surge as Syria Offers to Consider ‘Reforms’

At Least 37 Killed, Detentions Reported in Southern Syria

Hospital officials say the death toll of Wednesday’s violent crackdown in the southern Syrian city of Daraa was at least 37. Some witnesses say the death toll was in excess of 100. The violence does not appear to be dampening the spirits of the protesters, however, as rallies continue in earnest.

President Bashar Assad has said that he will “consider” reforms, including the lifting of some of the harshest ’emergency rule’ laws in the nation. In the wake of the deaths and yet more high profile arrests of regime critics, however, protest leaders have said the offers fall well short of their demands.

Those demands, which are mostly the same as the demands in numerous nations in the region, include freeing thousands of political prisoners, ending the emergency laws entirely, and affirming unrestricted freedom of speech and assembly.

The protests are expected to grow to much larger levels on Friday, as protesters will be able to gather at mosques for Friday prayers before public marches. Exactly how the regime will respond remains anyone’s guess, but Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman was already hoping to capitalize on the situation, calling on the West to use the same policy as in Libya (which is to say, start a major war).

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Author: Jason Ditz

Jason Ditz is news editor of Antiwar.com.