Sunday, May 1, 2011

Slaughter of the olive branch martyrs: The brutal Syrian crackdown that has left 500 dead and the West impotently wringing its hands - 1st May 2011

The story of the Syrian uprising is being told in short sentences. The regime has driven out foreign journalists, tortures people found with satellite phones and shoots those filming protests on mobile phones. So news seeps out on Twitter and signs held aloft at demonstrations.

The signs began by demanding reform in a mood of optimism amid the Arab Spring. Then they stressed unity, not sectarianism. Now they are held by small children in a city stained with blood. And they simply say ‘Thirsty’ or ‘Please help – I am hungry’.

Deraa, where the uprising began following the arrest of teenagers for scrawling graffiti on a wall, is a city under siege. Elite troops under the command of President Bashar Assad’s brother Maher moved in on Monday and cut off all communications.

Terrified families now hide in their homes, with food and water supplies running low. Snipers even shoot water butts to worsen the agony.

At least 15 of the 62 people killed on Friday were from nearby villages, gunned down as they carried food and olive branches – a symbol of peace – in a bid to break the siege. More died inside the city, once again at the centre of national bloodletting that has left more than 500 dead. Read More