Mild Western Reaction to Mass Deaths in Syria

Unrest continued Saturday in both Egypt and Syria, as protesters in both cities were killed by security forces in each country. Meanwhile, thousands of Egyptians rioted outside the Israeli embassy in Cairo over the IDF’s response to Hamas terror attacks, increasing concern in Jerusalem that the protests in the Arab world could begin to focus on Israel, instead of on domestic issues.

Riot police in Egypt (file)
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Riot police in Egypt (file)

In Syria, security forces opened fire Saturday on participants in a funeral procession for protesters killed in another attack Friday. At least 37 people were killed in those protests Friday. A Syrian anti-government protest group, the National Organization for Human Rights, accused the government of committing “crimes against humanity.”

Protests took place in several cities in Syria on Friday, with 30 people killed in Deraa, the epicenter of the protests. Witnesses said that dozens of others were wounded, but refused to go to the hospital for treatment, out of fear that the secret police would arrest them.

World reaction was mild, at best. European Union foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton condemned the violence, urging President Bashar Assad to implement “meaningful political reforms.” On Friday, U.S. President Barack H. Obama issued a statement that “strongly condemned the abhorrent violence committed against peaceful protesters.” and called for “meaningful political and economic reforms.” Israeli observers said they were “disappointed with the mild statement. There was no call for a UN meeting on the murders of innocent civilians, as there would most certainly have been had Israel killed dozens of terrorists at a single time.”

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Meanwhile in Cairo Saturday, two Egyptian protesters were shot by Egyptian military forces. Hundreds of soldiers charged a large crowd of protesters in Tahrir Square at about 2 AM Saturday morning, in an attempt to impose a curfew after a large protest on Friday. Later Saturday, thousands of protesters returned to the square to protest the killings, and to demand that the shooters, whom protesters accused of being in league with deposed President Hosni Mubarak, be put on trial, along with Mubarak and other figures from his regime.

During that protest, several thousand people broke away and marched to the Israeli Embassy, where they threw rocks and stones and attempted to enter the building. They were turned back by security troops. The crowd shouted anti-Israel epithets, claiming that Israel was killing “innocent Palestinians” in its response to Hamas rocket attacks. Diplomats in Jerusalem said they were concerned that the Muslim Brotherhood and other Islamists would use the Gaza situation to build protests against Israel, using the crowd in Tahrir Square for their anti-Israel agenda, after the group said it would become more active in the country’s protest movement.


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