As the situation in Syria gets bloodier and Syrian leader Bashar Assad becomes increasingly isolated internationally, some observers say the country is on the verge of a civil war instigated by the regime.
“I think we’ve now reached the stage where we are getting a militarization of the uprising,” said Salman Shaikh, director of the Brookings Doha Center, a think tank in Qatar. “I think shutting down the violence will become progressively more difficult, and I don’t see it ending any time soon. I believe this regime will fight to the end.”
On Thursday, rebels attacked the offices of Assad’s ruling party near the Turkish border. That followed attacks Wednesday on Syrian intelligence bases and checkpoints just outside Damascus – where rebel activity has been very limited during the eight-month uprising – as well as a deadly raid on a checkpoint near Hama in which eight Syrian soldiers were killed.
That raid was led by the so-called Free Syrian Army, made up of army defectors, which has attacked the military in recent months. Although the group issued a statement, the attacks could not be independently confirmed.
More than 3,500 Syrians have been killed since the uprising began eight months ago, according to the United Nations.
On Wednesday, the 22-member Arab League confirmed its suspension of Syria over its crackdown on protesters and for violating a peace plan agreed to Nov. 2. In Istanbul, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan said the world must urgently “hear screams” from Syria and do something to stop the bloodshed.
“The lack of reaction to massacres in Syria was causing irreparable wounds in the conscience of humanity,” said Erdogan, whose country has imposed an arms embargo on Damascus and shelters 7,700 Syrian refugees.
Activists say the increasing international isolation of Assad has led to the growing violence.
“It is unbelievable how violent it has been” since the Arab League became involved, said Hozan Ibrahim of the Local Coordination Committee of Syria based in Germany. “The killings started escalating, the violence and the sieges of cities and towns. People can’t accept the regime anymore and are looking for some way to protect themselves now.”