Multiple activist groups in Syria say that more than 100 people were killed in the town of Kfar Owaid on Tuesday, the same day that the government finally agreed to allow foreign monitors into the country. The U.N. says that more than 5,000 people have been killed during the government crackdown this year, but this week has been one of the bloodiest since the uprising began. As many as 200 people may have been killed by government forces since Monday.
Exact death tolls vary between various activist groups and details are tough to confirm in the more isolated towns that faced shelling by the government. However, it's clear that the Syria military is stepping up its assault on protesters, particularly against former soldiers who defected to fight for the other side. Reports say that 60-70 army deserters were gunned down by machine gun fire in Kfar Owaid and several other towns have seen increased artillery shelling. The BBC says that it may all be an effort to settle "unfinished business" before Arab League observers enter the country in an attempt to enact a peace settlement.
Unfiltered images and video out of Syria are rare (and costly to those who try to report them), but even the state TV has put on a show of force, broadcasting live fire exercises mean to show the army's preparedness should any foreign powers being considering an intervention.
Unfortunately, the half-hearted attempts by the Arab League to bring Syria in line offer little hope of stopping President Bashar al-Assad's campaign against his own people. As this Foreign Policy column explains, Assad has every incentive to ignore reform and continue to punish the public if he hopes to remain in power. The ruling Alawite clan makes up a small minority of Syria's population but dominates more than 80 percent of the military's key positions and has the most to lose from the collapse of the regime. Assad rules on behalf of them, not the other way around. He has much more to fear by threatening their position than he does from angry protesters. (Read the whole column if you'd like a succinct explanation of the position the president finds himself in at the moment.)