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In Syria, ‘No End in Sight’ to Violent Crackdown Against Protests

October 3, 2011 at 12:00 AM EDT

GWEN IFILL: Next, the violent stalemate in Syria between the government and the opposition.

Ray Suarez has the story.

RAY SUAREZ: The weekend brought new images of the Syrian army bombarding its own people.

By all accounts, the assault on Rastan in central Syria saw some of the worst fighting since the uprising began six months ago. For a week, the military battled hundreds of deserters who joined with protesters. But today, activists reported security forces had detained 3,000 people there.

Word of the violence in Rastan spread and prompted protests in several other cities. Meanwhile, leaders from several opposition factions gathered in Istanbul, Turkey, on Sunday to form a united front.

BURHAN GHALIOUN, Syrian National Council (through translator): We have heeded the call of the Syrian opposition and established this council.

RAY SUAREZ: The new Syrian National Council urged international action against the government of President Bashar al-Assad to stop the killing of civilians.

Reports of the council’s formation brought clapping and cheering from crowds in several cities across Syria. Still, Assad continues to hold on to power. And he does have supporters. On Thursday, a group of them pelted the convoy of U.S. Ambassador Robert Ford with eggs and tomatoes as he headed to a meeting with an opposition leader.

And there’s no end in sight. Reports from Talbiseh, between Rastan and Homs, say a new military operation is under way there. Faced with such prospects, the protesters are starting to take up arms, and the casualties are growing. The United Nations estimates at least 2,700 Syrians have died since the uprising began.