Syrian soldiers killed as crisis accelerates

BEIRUT (AP) — Army defectors ambushed dozens of Syrian troops and regime forces gunned down civilians during one of the bloodiest days of the 8-month-old uprising, which appeared Tuesday to be spiraling out of President Bashar Assad’s control.

Up to 90 people were killed in a gruesome wave of violence Monday, activists said. The extent of the bloodshed only came to light Tuesday, in part because corpses lying in the streets did not reach the morgue until daylight.

As the bloodshed spiked, Assad’s former allies were turning on him in rapid succession — a sign of profound impatience with a leader who has failed to stem months of unrest that could explode into a regional conflagration.

Turkey, Jordan and the 22-member Arab League all signaled they were fed up with Assad’s response to the uprising and were ready to pressure him to go.

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Tuesday he no longer has confidence in the government led by Assad, a 46-year-old eye doctor who inherited power from his father 11 years ago.

“No regime can survive by killing or jailing,” said Erdogan, who cultivated close ties with Assad before the uprising began in March. “No one can build a future over the blood of the oppressed.”

Erdogan — who disrespectfully addressed Assad by his first name — warned the brutal crackdown threatens to place him on a list of leaders who “feed on blood.”

Turkey also canceled plans for oil exploration in Syria and threatened to cut electricity supplies to the country, which is burning through the $17 billion in foreign reserves the government had at the start of the uprising. Turkey provides around 7 percent of Syria’s total electricity consumption.

A day earlier, Jordan’s King Abdullah II said Assad should step down, the first Arab leader to publicly make such a call. And over the weekend, the 22-member Arab League took a near-unanimous vote to suspend Damascus from the regional body.

In a sign that Saudi Arabia’s rulers now foresee an end to Assad’s rule, the former Saudi ambassador to the United States, Prince Turki Al Faisal, told reporters in Washington that it was “inevitable” Assad would step down.

“I think what we’re seeing here and continue to see is that the drumbeat of international pressure is increasing on Assad,” U.S. State Department spokesman Mark Toner said.

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