The sources said the massive use of Army units and platforms against the
protesters was first detected around April 24. They cited the deployment of
T-62s, T-55s and other armored combat vehicles to quell unrest in the
southern city of Dera.
So far, Assad's security forces, backed by the Army, have killed about
200 protesters in Dera, about half of the total number of casualties. The
sources said the forces also arrested about 500 protesters and suspected
dissidents around the city.
"Bashar Assad is determined to quell the Syrian revolt, which is why he
has sent in the military with tanks and is now arresting the network of
opposition activists and leaders that his intelligence agencies have been
able to track," Joshua Landis, a U.S. analyst on Syria with sources in the
regime, said. "Tanks are clearly not useful for suppressing an urban
rebellion, but they demonstrate
the superior firepower of the state and the determination of the president.
It is a classic military strategy — go hard and quick. Take out the
opposition before it has a chance to harden and develop a durable command a
reliable cell structure."
The London-based Amnesty said at least 23 people were killed in Dera by
MBT fire. Opposition sources also said the Syrian Army, whose deputy
commander is Assad's brother-in-law, Assaf Chawkat, also fired on protesters
in other cities, including Homs and the Damascus suburb of Duma.
In Deraa, the Syrian Army sent eight T-55s to the center of the city.
The sources said the MBTs opened fire and at least eight people were killed
in a salvo.
The sources said the Army has been supported by Iran's Islamic
Revolutionary Guard Corps. They said IRGC as well as Hizbullah have been
advising Syrian security forces on how to quell protests.
"The murderers in the Syrian regime must be held accountable," the
Syrian human rights group Sawasiah said on April 26. "The rivers of blood
spilled by this oppressive regime for the past four decades are enough."