Al-Busaira is one of many towns and villages under opposition control in Deir al-Zor, a large oil-producing province bordering Iraq, that have been attacked repeatedly in the last four months by government troops trying to regain control. Meanwhile, Syrian police killed two people on Tuesday when they opened fire on a crowd who came out to welcome United Nations observers in the eastern province of Deir al-Zor, an opposition official said. ”As soon as the US convoy entered al-Busaira, a jubilant crowd of hundreds came out to welcome them. It was not minutes before they came under fire,” Abu Laila, a Free Syrian Army official, said by phone from the town. “The observers immediately left al-Busaira. We called them to come back but they refused,” he said, adding that fighting ensued between President Bashar al-Assad’s forces and opposition fighters based in the town.
Another opposition source in the province said that government forces surrounding al-Busaira had begun firing anti-aircraft guns at the town. Assad, a member of Syria’s Alawite minority, had relied on a network of alliances with Sunni Muslim tribes forged by his late father, Hafez al-Assad, to keep Deir al-Zor under control.
SANA, the country’s main media outlet, released photographs of the bombing scene that appeared to show a heavily damaged restaurant. The agency said the blast went off late on Monday in the Damascus neighborhood of Qaboun, which has seen frequent anti-government protests.
Exploiting the chaos
The revolt in Syria began 15 months ago, and there are fears that extremist groups could be trying to enter the fray and exploit the chaos. The UN estimates the conflict has killed more than 9,000 people since March last year.
The conflict already has spilled across the border into neighboring Lebanon. The countries share a complex web of political and sectarian ties and rivalries, which can turn violent.
The killing of an anti-Syrian Sunni cleric in Lebanon on Sunday unleashed the most serious outbreak of violence in Beirut since the Syrian uprising began. Lebanese Sunni groups supporting and opposing the Damascus regime fired rocket-propelled grenades and machine guns early Monday, killing at least two people. Sheik Ahmed Abdul-Wahid and his bodyguard were gunned down Sunday by a Lebanese soldier, apparently after the men failed to stop at an army checkpoint. The killing fueled deep anger over the perceived support of some of Lebanon’s security forces for the Syrian regime.
Lebanon judge orders release of Mawlawi
In what could reduce the tension in Lebanon, a Lebanese military prosecutor ordered the release Tuesday of Shadi Mawlawi, an outspoken Lebanese critic of Assad.
Mawlawi’s arrest earlier this month sparked clashes between pro- and anti-Syrian groups in the northern city of Tripoli that killed eight people. Judicial officials said Mawlawi was released on about $333 bail and will not be allowed to leave the country. Meanwhile, the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human rights reported intense clashes Tuesday in Syria between troops and defectors in the towns of Atareb and Kfar Rouma. There was no immediate word on casualties.
The U.N. has an observer mission in the country with about 270 unarmed monitors, but the monitors’ presence has not stopped the violence although it has dropped compared to previous months. U.N. peacekeeping chief Herve Ladsous toured the central city of Homs, the flashpoint of the uprising, on Monday and met U.N. observers in the city as well as the governor.