BEIRUT — Turkey’s prime minister likened Syria’s president to Libya’s Moammar Gaddafi on Wednesday, as the Damascus government defied international calls to end the crackdown on a five-month-old uprising.
President Bashar al-Assad has unleashed tanks, ground troops and snipers in an attempt to retake control in rebellious areas. The military assault has escalated since the beginning of August, the start of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, with hundreds of people killed and thousands detained.
“We made our calls” to Gaddafi, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan said, “but, unfortunately, we got no result. The same thing is happening with Syria at the moment.”
The conflict in Libya, which began a month before Syria’s unrest, has descended into a civil war as Gaddafi defies calls to end the bloodshed.
On Wednesday, Erdogan said he had spoken to Assad and sent his foreign minister to Damascus. “Despite all of this, they are continuing to strike civilians,” Erdogan said.
Turkey, a neighbor and former close ally of Syria and its most important trade partner, has expressed growing frustration over the crackdown. But it has not joined the United States and Europe in imposing sanctions.
The Syrian government insists that its crackdown is aimed at rooting out terrorists fomenting unrest. In comments carried on the state-run news agency, Assad appeared to lash out at the international reproaches, saying his country will not give up its “dignity and sovereignty.”
In Latakia, a port city that has been subjected to a four-day military assault, security centers were overflowing with detainees Wednesday, forcing authorities to hold hundreds of other prisoners in the city’s main football stadium and in a movie theater, said Rami Abdul-Rahman, head of the London-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.
A woman in Latakia died of her wounds Wednesday, two days after she was injured, according to the observatory and the Local Coordination Committees, another activist group. The LCC said a man was killed in the city late Tuesday.
In northwestern Idlib province, a bullet killed a man as he stood on his balcony, according to the Observatory for Human Rights.
The government has also recently targeted the central city of Homs, where security forces fatally shot one person and wounded three during raids Wednesday, according to the observatory.
In Damascus, raids focused on the predominantly Kurdish neighborhood of Rukneddine, where security forces detained dozens after cutting electricity in the area, the group said. Intense anti-government demonstrations have taken place in the neighborhood in the past weeks.