Syrian assault on port city puts pressure on Turkey(VIDEO)
Turkey, which is leading an international effort to persuade the Assad regime against violence, last week gave Syria a deadline of 10 to 15 days to stop its brutal crackdown.
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The Syrian government intensified its brutal crackdown on protesters this weekend, defying growing international pressure ahead of a United Nations Security Council meeting on Thursday.
Tanks entered the coastal city of Latakia (see map here) on Saturday and opened fire Sunday, when they were joined briefly by two gunboats that assisted with shelling the city, the Washington Post reports.
The state-run Syrian Arab News Agency (SANA) said that residents had asked regime forces to clear the city of armed terrorist gangs and denied that the Navy was used in the assault on the city. But the Associated Press reports that troops were firing on fleeing residents, including women and children.
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Although Latakia has been the site of sporadic protests, it also has a large Alawite population, a religious minority to which President Assad and many members of his regime belong. While the mostly Sunni sections of the city, where protests were staged, were under assault, Alawite sections of the city celebrated, the Post reports.
The assaults on Latakia and other cities comes after Turkey, the regional player with the most influence over Assad, gave Assad 10 to 15 days to end the violence and begin implementing reforms, the Washington Post reports. Many members of the opposition in Syria worried that the deadline would give Assad an incentive to pursue even more brutal tactics in an effort to definitively crush the protests before the deadline.
The Los Angeles Times notes that violence has only increased since then, "a possible sign that the country's rulers feel they have little time left to crush the rebellion before they face harsher punishment from the international community." Harsher tactics also pose a risk for Assad though, the Times notes.