Tens of thousands of Syrian protesters shouted for President Bashar Assad’s death Friday in a dramatic escalation of their rage and frustration, defying Syrian forces after months of brutal crackdowns. Eleven protesters were killed during the demonstrations, according to human rights groups.
After Friday prayers, Syrian forces shot and killed another 20 protesters. Yet anti-government demonstrators remained resistant.
The protest movement began in March asking for relatively minor reforms in the Syrian government. Now they are calling for his head, in various cities, chanting “The people want to execute the president!”
The current status of this conflict between the Assad regime and the Syrian people has become a test of endurance. While the Obama administration has imposed sanctions on the Syrian government, with Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton on Friday urging countries to stop buying Syrian oil and gas or selling the regime weapons, they have stopped short of calling for Assad’s ouster.
A U.S. diplomatic official told the New York Times the United States increasingly believed that Assad could not hold out indefinitely and that plans were being made for a post-Assad era, without endorsing any direct intervention. With the exception of the sanctions, Syria has stood out among Arab Spring countries as one of the few the Obama administration hasn’t yet directly intervened, whether in support of the regime of against it.