At least six people have been killed overnight at the Omari Mosque in Daraa.
It is the second deadly flare-up of violence in the southern city. Last Friday five people died there.
Since then there have been daily protests, all ending peacefully. Tuesday was the quietest day yet. Locals went into the Omari Mosque and some set up tents outside. They vowed not to leave until their demands were met. According to the Economist, these included the end of the emergency law, the closure of the local security office, as well as the removal of some local officials.
Reports suggest that just after midnight the power was cut, and phone and internet connections became sporadic.
One of the dead was a doctor who rushed in to the mosque to help. The government says no security force was permitted to use live fire. They say armed gangs infiltrated the protestors.
Two important reads. First, Jim Muir on the BBC:
Thanks to heavy-handed official over-reaction to minor local incidents, Deraa suddenly produced the kind of burning popular outrage that has spread like forest fires in other countries. …
Deraa and other nearby towns such as Jassem and Inkhil – where related protests are reported to have been mounted – are largely Sunni and heavily tribal.
That means that if the grievances remain inflamed, they could spread, take hold and be very hard indeed to stamp out.
But it also means that if the government succeeds in winning over the tribal leaders and elders, the situation could be contained. …
The slogan that proved the death-knell of the Mubarak and Ben Ali regimes in Egypt and Tunisia, and which is now haunting the leaders of Libya and Yemen, was: “The people want the overthrow of the regime.”
So far, even the protesters in Deraa have confined themselves to near-rhyming modifications, such as: “The people want the overthrow of corruption”, or “The people want reform of the regime”.
And secondly, Maysaloon has written an incredibly thoughtful post explaining the background behind the Daraa trouble.
In Qamishli, to the North-East of the country, there has always been unrest amongst the Kurdish population living there. Recently, however, there have been protests in the Syrian coastal city of Baniyas as well as in Damascus and in Der’a, a town in the South near the border with Jordan. The motives for each of these events have been different and the groups themselves are disorganised and lack unity. In Der’aa the arrest of some school children who had written revolutionary slogans, slogans that they had been hearing on al Jazeera these past few months, on the walls led to widespread protests. This, in turn, provoked a clumsy and violent crackdown in which at least half a dozen people have already been killed.
In Baniyas the situation is more convoluted and has a more Sunni Muslim flavour to it. The grievances were, amongst other things, the closure of mixed-sex schools and, it is rumoured, the abolition of electricity bills. It is claimed that the centre of the unrest is a client family who had benefitted under the patronage of Abdul Halim Khaddam, a former vice president of Syria and a persona non gratanow in exile in Paris or London. In Damascus, a small protest centred around the Ummayad Mosque was much more mercantile, and revolved around demands for greater freedoms and less corruption.
I have set up a new Twitter feed of must-read updates from Syria.