Despite claims by President Bashar Assad that the crackdown against pro-democracy protesters in the country was over, security forces were out in force again today for Friday’s rallies, killing at least 34 nationwide.
The bulk of the killings, according to human rights groups in the nation, were in and around the southern city of Daraa, which is where the protests first began some five months ago. The remainder included killings in Homs and a Damascus suburb.
Protests have been a virtual constant on Fridays in Syria, as demonstrators go straight from Friday prayers at mosques into the streets, with demands ranging from free elections to the immediate execution of Assad for the massive death toll of his crackdowns.
Syrian officials were quick to blame “foreign elements” for today’s protests, with UN envoy Bashar Ja’afari claiming the US was trying to “instigate insurrection” in the nation. Though the US has begun calling for Assad’s ouster in recent days, they were comparatively late in the game, joining everyone from Turkey and the European Union to al-Qaeda in believing Assad should be replaced, though each faction seems to have a different idea what it should be replaced with, and the protester’s calls for free elections are largely not part of the equation.
Some were even chanting “see you in the Hague.” But if they are expecting Assad to be held accountable in the International Criminal Court, they are likely to be disappointed, as a statement from the court indicated that since Syria is not a party to the Rome Statute the court lacks jurisdiction.