"Israelis are more merciful than you," screamed a Syrian woman in Deraa who opened her door Wednesday to find a member of the Syrian secret police staring menacingly at her. Those would be her final words. Seconds later, the policeman shot dead the woman, a 42-year-old mother of six known as Um Omar.
The slaying was mentioned in a chilling account of Syrian President Bashar Assad's crackdown published Thursday by Reuters. Three days earlier, Syrian Army tanks rolled into Deraa, a city near the Jordanian border where nationwide protests against the Assad dictatorship began last month. Residents said at least 50 bodies have been picked up while dozens more corpses lay rotting in the city streets. Um Omar was buried in her own backyard because Muslim tradition barred keeping her body with the corpses of 22 men lying in a refrigerator truck while awaiting burial.
While the government massacres its own people, Syrian officials are threatening Israel. They warn that if war breaks out with the Jewish State, Damascus and Hizballah will compete with one another to see who will fire the first missile at Tel Aviv. Syrian officials say the deteriorating security situation there could influence events in Jordan, Lebanon and Iraq. Hundreds of Syrians have already fled to Lebanon and Jordan.
In Deraa, the epicenter of the Syrian government's crackdown, angry residents said at least 40 tanks from the Army's 4th Mechanised Brigade, commanded by Assad's brother Maher, have deployed in the city. Water, electricity and telephone services have been cut off, and critical supplies of milk for babies and blood for transfusions are running low.
"There are still a lot of bodies in the streets," said one resident. "Anyone who gets out will find a sniper to shoot him. They are not sparing anyone, men, women or children."
There are also reports that Syrian Army units have clashed with one another over the crackdown, and that possibly 20 soldiers have been executed for failing to kill civilians. An estimated 450 people have been killed in the month-long wave of Syrian unrest and hundreds of members of Syria's ruling Baath Party have reportedly quit in protest of the regime's actions.
There are also reports from Syrian opposition sources that the Islamist regime in Tehran has sent snipers to help Assad kill his political opponents. Amir Taheri, a longtime observer of events in the Mideast, says these reports are credible given the longstanding strategic and military between Tehran and Damascus. Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad regards the United States as being in historic retreat, and the fall of the Baathist regime would destroy many of his political aspirations. That gives Tehran considerable motivation to employ or facilitate violence in an effort to help Assad hold on to power, according to Taheri.
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