Three people were killed and 15 were wounded when tanks rolled into the coastal city of Latakia in Syria on Friday:
Soldiers backed by loyalist militia known as shabbiha were also deployed in the city's Sulaiba district, the group's head, Rami Abdel Rahman, said. "They are arresting dozens of people," he said, adding many people were fleeing the assault.
Troops and shabbiha killed one person in the town of Qusair, near the Lebanese border, and made arrests in nearby Jousiyah village, he said. The bodies of four people arrested during an assault last week in the Houla Plain, north of Homs, were returned to their families, he added.
Syrian authorities deny reports of deaths in detention and say 500 soldiers and police have been killed by armed groups they blame for the violence. The state news agency SANA said three security forces were killed in Friday's protests.
Since the start of Ramadan in early August, Assad has stepped up the military campaign, launching assaults on the central city of Hama and the city of Deir al-Zor in the eastern Sunni Muslim tribal heartland. Assad's family, which has ruled Syria for 41 years, is from the minority Alawite sect.
After a wave of Arab criticism of Damascus last week, the Saudi Arabia-based Organization of Islamic Cooperation yesterday accused Syria of using "excessive armed force" and called on Damascus to stop the bloodshed. Its chief, Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu, urged Assad "to exercise utmost restraint through the immediate halt to the use of force to suppress popular demonstrations."
For those who don't think this is newsworthy or even worth paying attention to, I can only say that we must be witnesses to history regardless of how boring or repetitive it is. A story is being written by ordinary people in Syria. They are being gunned down in the streets, blown up by tank shells, and tortured to death in Assad's black holes of detention centers.
We owe it to them to document their battle as best we can. And we will continue to do so.