On Monday, army tanks entered Dara’a, the center of some much of Syria’s protests, in what was largely seen as a pivotal escalation on the Assads’ crackdown (they had previously relied on security forces, not the military). Reports emerging from inside the city now are quite frightening:
In the besieged city of Dara’a, which has become a symbol of Syria’s uprising, residents on Wednesday told of shortages of bread and even baby formula. Some stick a pole wrapped in a scarf out the door to see whether snipers are lurking. Doctors in a mosque have resorted to using sewing needles to stitch wounds, amid shortages of bandages and disinfectant.
Some spoke of moments of camaraderie in the three-day blockade, as Palestinians from nearby refugee camps ferried canned food and bread by foot to Dara’a, a poor border town in a drought-stricken region where protests last month galvanized nationwide demonstrations. Others spoke of a deepening fear of snipers by day, raids by night and people so scared they would not open their doors, even to neighbors.
“Dara’a and its hinterland are a ghost town,” one resident of the area said as he fled across the border to Jordan on Wednesday. “You can’t go in and you can’t go out.”
As the crackdown in Dara’a entered its fourth day on Thursday, opposition activists reported a growing number of resignations from the Baath Party, which has ruled Syria in some fashion since 1963. Though the figures did not occupy senior positions, activists said the resignations were symbolically important, signaling the willingness of people to defy the inevitable repercussions and forego the privileges that membership secured.