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28 Jan, 2012 06:29

Division within Syria grows as protests spread into capital

Syrian opposition activists claim that more than 60 people have been killed during the latest outbreak of violence. That is against a backdrop of the reported advance of armed Syrian anti-regime fighters towards the capital Damascus.

And while some see it as a sign of liberation, others remain unconvinced.“We don’t want killing, we don’t want blood. We don’t want to see children being killed. We want to live safely here in our country,” one of the anti-Assad protesters told RT at a funeral taking place in a Damascus suburb.For now, they feel that safety is being provided by the Free Syrian Army – a guerilla body made up mainly of army defectors. Locals say its presence has enabled protests to go ahead.“The military cannot come in anymore because the Free Syrian Army is protecting us,” another protester explains. “We support the Free Syrian Army and we support Riad Al-Assad.”The former army colonel heads the FSA from abroad. He has been steadfast from the start in his calls for foreign military intervention. But the armed group has so far avoided partnerships with any other opposition elements, whose views differ significantly.Inside the country, the National Coordination Committee for Democratic Change, one of the leading opposition groups, remains adamant that foreign military intervention would make an already deteriorating situation even worse.“The security solution has caused some areas to get out of control, and it seems there is a war between two groups,” says Hussein Al-Odat, a member of the NCC.Outside the country, it is the Syrian National Council pitching itself as the main opposition, but it too has failed to unify the many different opposition factions. This lack of unity has hampered the growing calls for direct UN involvement. Russia and China, however, remain firmly opposed to a resolution that would leave the door open to foreign military intervention.Anti-war activist and journalist Don Debar says the latest resolution circulating at the UN Security Council does not uphold the right of the Syrian people to choose their own leadership.“The point of departure between the Western interests and Russia – and China, voiced by Russia this time – is whether or not the decision about who will rule Syria is made by the Syrian people or by NATO, as it was in Libya,” he told RT. “Today, again, they indicated that they will not allow the resolution to go through that calls for regime change in Syria without the participation of the Syrian people.”According to the journalist, the Western powers want to see nothing in the region but discord.“They obviously cannot occupy these territories after they conquered them. If you look to Iraq and Afghanistan, you can see that that’s the case,” he said. “But as long as the people on the ground are busy killing each other, the United States can secure oil, or in the case of Syria, for example, the port of Tartus, which would keep Russia out of the Mediterranean.”

And in a far cry from their previous calls for dialogue, Qatar and Saudi Arabia have now talked of further arming the opposition – a move that is feared could cost even more lives, with so many loosely defined rebel groups.“You have to work with the other side,” George Jabour, a former advisor to ex-President Hafez Assad told RT. “Working with the other side needs dialogue instead of fighting.”The FSA say they had little choice but to use weapons to protect civilians.“We have this main square here in town where people come out and protest every evening,” an FSA member explains. “The security forces try to come in but we protect them. This is what’s happening here.”But it remains a precarious situation. In a moment of confusion the crowd gets nervous and starts to run. At one point gunshots are heard, but it is not certain where they have come from.All this is happening just 15 minutes from the city centre, which just a day before had seen major pro-government demonstrations. As opposition control continues to gain ground, the divisions within the country have never been clearer.