Syria’s army beefed up its presence in the southern city of Deraa, a focal point of bloody protests across the country, and soldiers took to the streets in a northern port where tensions are rising, residents said on Sunday.
The army has so far taken a secondary role to secret police and special forces that have been sent to the city to try to quell more than a week of protests in which at least 55 people have been killed in and around Deraa, a rights group said.
Presidential adviser Buthaina Shaaban said on Sunday that the president will address the nation ‘very soon.’
“The President Assad will address his people very soon to explain the situation and clarify and elaborate on the reforms that have already been decided,” she said.
Also on Sunday, she said “the decision to lift emergency rule in Syria, which has been in place since 1963, has “already been made.”
“The decision to lift the emergency law has already been made. But I do not know about the time frame,” she told in an interview at her office.
Security forces had fired on protesters on Friday in Deraa and there were reports of more shootings in other parts of Syria. Authorities have blamed the violence on ‘armed gangs’.
The unrest spread to the heavily fortified main port city of Latakia, where, according to a Syrian official source, 12 people — including security forces, civilians and “armed elements” — have been killed in two days of clashes.
“Decades of pent up feelings are generating these confrontations. Cooler heads are prevailing in Latakia,” a resident said.
He said no tanks or troop carriers were to be seen and the army was restricting its presence to soldiers on foot.
“There is a feeling in Latakia that the presence of disciplined troops is necessary to keep order. We do not want looting,” he added.
Meanwhile Syrian authorities released on Sunday Diana Jawabra, whose arrest this month helped fuel mass protests in her home city of Deraa against Baath party rule.
One of Jawabra’s lawyers said that Jawabra was among 16 people released on Sunday.
Meanwhile, Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez on Saturday charged the United States was trying to oust Syria’s leader to seize the country’s resources.
“The attack on Syria has begun, there have been some supposed peaceful protests and some deaths (…) and they are accusing the president of killing his people,” Chavez said at a political event.
On Sunday, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said the United States currently has no intention of launching a military intervention in Syria, despite its brutal crackdown that has left dozens of protesters dead.
“Certainly we deplore the violence in Syria,” she said. Agencies