Day 8 - Massacre in Daraa: Wednesday, 23 March 2011
The main focus of the uprising continues to be Daraa in Southern Syria. Assad regime seems to have made the decision to end the uprising in Daraa through the use of force. A full-scale attack was mounted at early dawn on Omari Mosque in downtown Daraa, which has become a gathering place for the protesters and a field hospital of sorts. Heavy gunfire and numerous casualties reported. Imams called from Minarets on people to come to the rescue. Power supply is down all over the city, and thousands of people have poured into the streets. Explosions also reported. Syrian security forces is the party responsible for the attack. Twitter-verse managed to provide immediate coverage resulting in prompt media reports and live interviews on Al-Arabiya TV.
The numbers of how many dead and injured are hard to confirm on account of the information blackout imposed by the regime. Most news agencies seem willing to report that 15 are confirmed dead, but activists on the ground report that the number is well beyond 150, as many of the wounded were in serious condition when they were removed from the streets by army vehicle and taken to unknown destinations. Sources confirm that they were not taken to any hospitals in Daraa or surrounding counties.
The massacre received wide international attention, with many media outlets reporting on it as it happened, due to buzz generated on Twitter and outreach efforts by exiled activists and human rights groups. Meanwhile, Syrian officials are mounting an extensive public relations campaign, as their spokesmen flood TV stations speaking as if they were members of the opposition, calling for reforms, admitting mistakes, saying the "President" intends to call for a major conference on political reform, all while raising all sorts of doubts about foreign agendas, infiltrators and suspicious happenings in Daraa. This is an old tactic and, despite the greater exposure by Syrians to different versions of the "truth" thanks to social media tools satellite channels, it can still be effective, among those too scared to act ad are in search of excuses and justifications for their behavior.
How effective this tactic will be demonstrated on coming Friday. Activists are calling for mass demonstrations to take place following the Noon prayers, the size of the crowds willing to respond will divulge much about the pace, course and nature of events in the days and weeks to come.