Anti-government protesters rallied Wednesday night on the outskirts of Damascus, hours after Syrian President Bashar al-Assad made a surprise appearance at a pro-regime rally in the city centre, where he again vowed to end the months-long revolt "with an iron fist."
"Every night it's the same — in the suburbs of Damascus, people come and protest against the Assad government," the CBC's Susan Ormiston reported from a Syrian town, surrounded by youths with their faces covered, chanting anti-government slogans.
"They've been doing this for months and say they'll continue to until the regime falls."
Similar protests have been happening nightly in small pockets around the country and in larger restive cities like Homs. They have persisted despite a government crackdown that has seen more than 5,000 people killed since the uprising began in March, according to the United Nations.
The Syrian capital, strongly held by the Assad government, has largely been spared the unrest, and the military infiltrates the suburbs around the city during the day to pacify potential demonstrations. At night, however, the protesters are able to rally in the streets, Ormiston said.
Earlier in the day, thousands of Assad supporters gathered for a large demonstration in a central square. Assad made a rare public appearance at the event accompanied by his family and bodyguards, telling the crowd the regime would defeat "the conspiracy" which he claims has been fuelling widespread anti-government protests.
"I wanted to be with you so I can draw strength from you in the face of everything that Syria is subjected to," Assad said. "It was important that we maintain our faith in the future. I have that faith in the future and we will undoubtedly triumph over this conspiracy."
Assad's defiant remarks came as the Arab League mission to Syria faces renewed scrutiny, after one of its observers called the mission "a farce" and quit and a United Nations official said that killings of anti-regime protesters have increased since the foreign observers arrived.
More than 160 foreign observers have travelled to Syria to determine whether the Assad government is complying with the terms of a peace plan, brokered by the Cairo-based group, that seeks an end to a 10-month crackdown on dissent.
"The mission was a farce and the observers have been fooled," Anwer Malek told Al-Jazeera in an interview broadcast late Tuesday. "The regime orchestrated it and fabricated most of what we saw to stop the Arab League from taking action against the regime."
CBC journalists are inside Syria this week, where few foreign journalists have been permitted to work. Although their activities are monitored and they are constantly accompanied by government representatives, their reports are not censored or otherwise edited by outside agencies before being published.
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