BEIRUT — Syrian security forces arrested hundreds of activists and anti-government protesters in house-to-house raids across the country Monday, part of an escalating government crackdown aimed at stamping out the nationwide revolt engulfing the country.
President Bashar Assad has dispatched army troops and tanks to crush the seven-week uprising that has posed the most serious challenge to his family’s 40-year rule. The widening crackdown suggests that Assad’s regime is determined to crush the uprising by force and intimidation, despite rapidly escalating international outrage and a death toll that has topped 630 civilians since the unrest began, according to rights groups.
Monday’s arrests, which zeroed in on the protests’ organizers and participants, were focused in four areas – the central city of Homs, the coastal city of Banias, some suburbs of the capital Damascus and villages around the southern flashpoint city of Daraa, said Rami Abdul-Rahman, director of the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. He said the crackle of gunfire could be heard in the Damascus suburb of Maadamiyeh.