More than 70 people died in one of the bloodiest days of the eight-month Syrian uprising, activists said on Tuesday, as the growing isolation of President Bashar al-Assad’s regime drew an angry reaction from his loyalists.
More than 100 of his supporters stormed the Jordanian embassy in Damascus overnight — the fourth regional mission to be targeted since the Arab League voted on Saturday to impose sanctions — after Jordan’s King Abdullah II became the first Arab leader to publicly call for Assad to quit.
Buoyed by the fast-growing diplomatic pressure, the Syrian opposition stepped up its contacts with the regime’s remaining bulwarks, holding talks in Moscow, which last month joined Beijing in vetoing a UN Security Council resolution that would have threatened “targeted measures.”
Neighbouring Turkey, a former close Syrian ally that has been one of the most outspoken champions of reform, prepared to hold talks in Morocco with Arab leaders on Wednesday that were expected to be dominated by the bloodshed.
In a sign of the potential for civil war in West Asia, five regular army troops were killed on Tuesday in clashes with mutinous soldiers who refused orders to shoot on civilians, a human rights group said, after 34 were killed the previous day.
The fighting erupted in the town of Hara in Daraa province, where the unprecedented protests against Assad’s 11-year reign erupted in March, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.
In Idlib province in the northwest, close to the Turkish border, “clashes between the regular army and armed men, probably deserters, caused at least 14 casualties — dead and wounded, the Britain-based watchdog added.
A total of 34 soldiers and 12 suspected army deserters were killed in clashes, as well as 27 civilians shot dead by security forces in the regime’s intensifying crackdown, the Observatory said.