4:51am

Mon May 14, 2012
Middle East

Violence In Syria Has Not Abated

Originally published on Mon May 14, 2012 6:44 am

Transcript

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

Syria's violence has not let up. Over the weekend, Syrian troops continued their campaign against those who opposed the regime of President Bashar al-Assad. Let's talk about this with NPR's Kelly McEvers, who's on the line from Beirut. And Kelly, what's the latest?

KELLY MCEVERS, BYLINE: What we've heard is that Syrian troops have stormed a village outside the city of Hama. This is a city that has long resisted the president. Troops came into the village, burned homes. Apparently after one of the rebels, who are part of the group known as the Free Syrian Army, residents say that among the dead was one rebel, but they say that most of those who suffered were civilians.

What we're also seeing in Syria now is a massive arrest campaign against non-violent resisters to the government, those people who protest against the government, those people who aid the protesters, and those who've been engaged in political dialogue talking about sort of what the future can be.

And finally what we're seeing is some of the violence actually spilling over the borders over the weekend. Fighting is still raging here in Lebanon in the north near the Syrian border between two groups, one sort of pro-Syrian Alawites, and the other anti-Syrian Sunnis. Now, it's important to keep in mind that these two groups have been fighting each other long before the Syrian uprising began, but the tension in the country next door isn't helping the situation.

INSKEEP: Now, amid all of this, of course, there were a couple of explosions outside Damascus last week. Fifty-five people killed, hundreds more injured, we're told, and now someone has put out a video claiming responsibility?

MCEVERS: A group calling itself Jabhat al-Nusra, which means the front for the support of the Syrian people, has emerged in recent months and claimed responsibility for some of these bombings. A video claiming to be this group came out over the weekend.

But a terrorism expert I talked to said it's still not clear if that's really who it is, and if they really are claiming responsibility. They didn't put forward any names of potential suicide bombers in the case. And the experts say that the video didn't even come through the usual channels. So I think we have to approach this one with a pretty high degree of skepticism as well.

I mean, the opposition thinks that the regime staged the bombing itself so that the world would believe the narrative that what's happening in Syria isn't actually a protest movement, but you know, is basically just terrorists. I think we'll have to wait and see what it really was.

INSKEEP: Kelly, isn't all this violence happening more than a month after a U.N. ceasefire?

MCEVERS: Right. There's supposed to be a ceasefire in place. There are U.N. monitors in the country to see that this ceasefire holds. Of course it hasn't held. We're - by the end of the month should be up to 300 monitors. Instead of watching a ceasefire, they're hoping to sort of create the ceasefire.

I think most people in the international community at this point kind of agree that the deal isn't going to work, it's probably going to fail. But nobody at this point is really willing to declare that failure. I think most people are kind of waiting, hoping to give it a few more weeks to see if these extra monitors can sort of turn the situation toward a more peaceful one, and open the door for the political dialogue that's supposed to happen next.

INSKEEP: NPR's Kelly McEvers is in Beirut. Kelly, thanks very much.

MCEVERS: You're welcome. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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