The authorities seized on Sunday a huge consignment of weapons in a refrigerator car driven by an Iraqi in a bid to smuggle it from Iraq to Syria via al-Tanf border crossing

Protests continued across Syria on Sunday, the 65th anniversary of Independence Day (or Evacuation Day, as it is also called), despite President Bashar al-Assad’s speech to the new cabinet on Saturday. In his speech, the president pledged to enact a number of reforms and used conciliatory language. As-Safir newspaper said the speech was an effort to direct the new government towards reform, whilst warning the people against breaking the new laws. But the opposition view it as more of the same, wrote Al-Quds Al-Arabi, a London-based Palestinian news website.

Despite widespread reports in foreign media that protests have continued in many cities and towns in Syria over the weekend, the state news agency, SANA, reported that “despite media campaigns led by a number of satellite TV stations and foreign calls to demonstrate in Syria, normal life and calm prevailed the majority of Syrian cities on the Independence Day.” But it did note that “nearly 2,000” people marched in Dera’a and others gathered in Suweida and Jablah, shouting for “Syria, freedom and the martyrs”. Other estimates put the numbers of protestors far higher. Clashes continued in the central city of Homs overnight and, according to one report, eight people were killed.

During a gathering in Suweida, around 300 protesters carrying pictures of the 20th Century, anti-occupation revolutionary Sultan Basha al-Attrash were violently dispersed by security forces, reported Day Press News. It was also reported that Attrash’s grandson, Hani Hassan al-Attrash, was badly injured and taken to the hospital when government loyalists clashed with around 150 marchers in Al-Qrayya, a village near Suweida, according to Mazen Darwish, head of the Syrian Press Centre. Dera’a, meanwhile, was the scene of a festive atmosphere quite different from events of the past four weeks, as the army and security forces were ordered off the streets on Friday following the visit of a delegation from the southern city to Damascus where they met with the president.

The Washington Post revealed on Thursday that US diplomatic cables show the State Department has been financing ‘democracy promotion’ in Syria since 2005. The news partly confirms government’s assertions that a foreign conspiracy is at work. According to the documents, the State Department programme called the Middle East Partnership Initiative funded Syrian exiles and their networks by channeling money through the Democracy Council, an Los Angeles-based non-profit whose members have links to large US corporations and ‘think-tanks’ such as the Council on Foreign Relations and the Heritage Foundation. Gulf News reported that one of the main recipients in Syria was Barada TV, a London-based satellite channel that broadcasts anti-government news into Syria. Barada’s founder, Malik al-Addeh, is the co-founder of the exiled opposition group Movement for Justice and Development.

Meanwhile, accusations that the Lebanese Future Movement’s Jamal al-Jarrah helped fund an armed group in Syria and encouraged them to try to overthrow the government have provoked strong reactions from officials. Former Lebanese Prime Minister, Fouad Sinora, told Ya Libnaan: “Syria ought to file its accusations against the Future Movement via the correct legal channels rather than campaigning in the media.”

In other news SANA reported that another cache of weapons was seized en route to Syria from Iraq.

Syria Today (Syria)