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Wednesday, April 27, 2011     INTELLIGENCE BRIEFING

Syria brings out T-55 main battle tanks, artillery against protesters

NICOSIA — The regime of Syrian President Bashar Assad has begun using the military in its massive crackdown on the opposition.


Opposition and human rights activists said Assad has ordered hundreds of main battle tanks and armored personnel carriers to quell anti-regime protests in several Syrian cities. They said the platforms have included the Russian-origin T-55 and BMP-class infantry fighting vehicles, which have fired into crowds of civilians, Middle East Newsline reported.

"By resorting to the use of artillery against its own people today, the Syrian government has shown its determination to crush the peaceful protests at virtually any cost, whatever the price in Syrians' lives," Malcolm Smart, Middle East and North Africa director of Amnesty International, said.

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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."


The army is not supporting the siege on Dera. The 4th regiment led by Maher al-Assad, Syrian and Iranian republican guard, Hizbulla and Hamas militants (clad in black) are. There are confirmed reports of 5th regiment joining the protestors and inflicting major fatalities upon the 4th regiment.

Syria Anonymous      5:43 p.m. / Wednesday, April 27, 2011

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