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Thursday, April 14, 2011     FOR YOUR EYES ONLY

Opposition: Syrian soldiers balking at orders
to fire on demonstrators

NICOSIA — Syrian Army soldiers have begun to disobey orders by the regime of President Bashar Assad to fire toward protesters.


Opposition sources said Syrian soldiers have been seen refusing orders to fire on the tens of thousands of demonstrators who called for the ouster of Assad. They said some of the soldiers were shot by Assad's elite security force while others were arrested on the spot.

"We have seen this phenomenon in several cities," an opposition source said.

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One example was that of Murad Hejo, a soldier from Madaya. The opposition said he was shot in the back during the deployment of the Syrian Army in the port city of Banias on April 8.

"His family and town are saying he refused to shoot at his people," Syrian human rights activist Wassim Tarif said.

This marked the first reports of Syrian soldiers disobeying regime orders amid the crackdown on the massive protests that swept the country this month. The opposition said one soldier, identified as Mohammed Qunbar, was killed by Assad's officers for refusing to fire on protesters.

The regime has reported the killing of about 30 Syrian soldiers and police in clashes with security forces. But Damascus did not indicate any problem with discipline either in the military or police.

The opposition said the regime was deploying thousands of plainclothes mercenaries and volunteers called Shabiha. The Shabiha were said to have been firing from their cars on demonstrators and others in such cities as Banias, Dera and Latikia.

For its part, the regime has maintained that unidentified foreign countries were deploying insurgency cells in Syria. On April 13, state-owned Syrian television broadcast what it termed a confession by an Islamist cell said to have been headed by Anas Kanj and directed from neighboring Lebanon.

"We were recently assigned a mission to launch an armed attack against the Sbeineh police station in suburban Damascus meant to exploit the low level of security," Kanj said.

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