Syria appeared increasingly headed towards civil war, experts say, as continuing clashes between protestors and President Bashar Assad's forces reportedly left at least 28 people dead Friday.
Syrian forces shelled a town in the country's restive north and opened fire on scattered protests nationwide, killing at least 32 people on Friday, activists said. Hundreds of Syrians streamed across the border into Turkey, trying to escape the violence.
A Syrian opposition figure told The Associated Press by telephone that thousands of protesters overwhelmed security officers and torched the courthouse and police station in the northern town of Maaret al-Numan, and the army responded with tank shells. The man spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the matter.
The Local Coordination Committees, a group that documents anti-government protests in Syria, said at least 32 people died in protests and army operations, half of them in the northwestern province of Idlib. The group said many of the casualties were in Maaret al-Numan
"The country is sliding toward civil war." said Syria expert Joshua Landis, associate professor of Middle East studies at Oklahoma University, while addressing recent developments and growing violence in Israel's northern neighbor.
A Lebanese analyst, who is close to some opposition figures in Syria, said: "We have been warning our Syrian brothers but they do not want to listen. They think the civil war in Lebanon and in Iraq will not reach them. They are wrong."
'We want him out'
The possibility of splits in the armed forces, where the top command ranks and elite units are largely Alawite while the mass of conscripts are Sunni, is also a concern.
A Damascus based analyst, echoing many observers abroad, said Assad and his Alawite allies appeared bent on hanging to power at all costs: "The regime has essentially vowed to break the country over the people's heads," the analyst said.
Anti-Assad protest in Turkey (Photo: AFP)
"It will push the country over the cliff unless Syrian society resists its divisive tactics. So the fate of Syria lies not in the hands of the regime, but in that of the people."
An activist who took part in an opposition conference in Turkey last week said he believed that widespread violence was a risk many were willing to take, however, to be rid of Assad.
"Even if there is ... a civil war or anything like that, people are determined to go all the way, to the end, regardless of the cost," he said.
"We want him out and we want to be free of this regime.
"The regime is pushing the country toward civil war and we are heading that way it seems."
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