The last weekend in October marked one of the bloodiest periods to date in the ongoing assault by the Assad government against Syrian demonstrators, who first took to the streets demanding democratic change more than seven months ago.
Some activists claim at least seventy civilians were killed by Syrian security forces during protests in several cities, including Homs and Hama. U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki Moon condemned the killings, noting that they added to "an alarming death toll of well over 3000 people" since the beginning of the protests in March.
The weekend attacks took place as Arab diplomats were meeting with representatives of Syria in Doha. Members of the Arab League called for President Bashar al-Assad to withdraw the tanks and stop the military assault on the Syrian people.
In an interview with a British newspaper, however, President Assad expressed most concern about what he warned would be "an earthquake" in the region if there were foreign intervention in Syria.
U.S. State Department spokesman Victoria Nuland said that there is no desire on any one's part "to further militarize" the situation in Syria:
"On the contrary, we want the violence to end, we want a true dialogue about a nonsectarian, democratic, peaceful future for Syria to begin. And it is Assad himself who is standing in the way of that."
Ms. Nuland noted that if Mr. Assad cared anything about his country he would step aside so that a true democratic dialogue could begin":
"But even before that, he would withdraw his heavy weapons from cities and towns across Syria which are intimidating people. He would stop arresting, beating, keeping locked up and torturing peaceful protesters. And he would allow a true dialogue to begin. That's what the Arab League has called for. That's what we have repeatedly called for."