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Syria Moves Into Civil War Phase

For months, protesters have peacefully registered their discontent in Syria, and tens of thousands of them have been mowed down in the streets for their trouble. Now, while the peaceful protests continue, we’re finally seeing the end of that phase of the uprising, and the beginning of the civil war.

After Bashar al-Assad preposterously denied any government role in the Houla massacre, the Free Syrian Army, the main military opposition to the regime, announced it would no longer follow the cease-fire brokered by United Nations envoy Kofi Annan. And to underline this, the opposition claimed to have killed 80 regime soldiers.

Syrian rebels killed at least 80 government soldiers at the weekend, an opposition watchdog has said.

The attacks came after rebels warned they would act if Syria’s president, Bashar al-Assad, failed to observe a UN-backed ceasefire.

The latest violence, and Assad’s defiant speech to parliament on Sunday, raised questions about how long the UN and Arab League envoy, Kofi Annan, can realistically pursue his peace plan.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said local doctors had confirmed the names of 80 dead soldiers.

They managed to destroy an army tank in Idlib province.

The opposition could not realistically wait any longer, honoring the cease-fire while the Syrian regime picked off innocent protesters. Demonstrations have actually been growing in recent weeks, including in areas like the Damascus suburbs and Aleppo, which were once regime stringholds. And with Russia and China unwilling to go any further than the status quo, there is no hope of intervention of any kind from outside the country. The Annan peace plan is functionally dead. Now we’re in the civil war phase.

Syria today expelled Western diplomats, retaliation for the expelling of Syrian diplomats from Western capitals after the Houla massacre. The good news is that aid agencies have been allowed into the four most hard-hit provinces, but in a way I see this as the opening of the war zone.

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David Dayen

David Dayen