By Damien McElroy
The Syrian President Bashar al Assad, his British wife Asma and their family will meet a bloody end ‘like Gaddafi’ as his regime falls from power, a leading member of the opposition movement has warned.
Haitham Maleh, a member of the executive committee of the Syrian National Council, told The Daily Telegraph that Mr Assad had forfeited any chance of a peaceful exit from Syria as a result of his regime’s brutal crackdown on protesters.
The former judge, who has spent decades in Syrian prisons for his human rights activism, predicted that Mr Assad, his wife and three children would be killed in revenge for his failure to respond positively to peaceful demands for change.
“Assad and his family will be killed in Syria, their next steps will be very bloody,” he said. “Two months ago we offered him the option to leave us alone and go but instead he went for the blood of his people. The end for him will be that he is killed like Gaddafi.”
Persistent reports have emerged around the Middle East that Mrs Assad has sought to return to England – or at least flee the fighting in Damascus – with her three children, Hafez, Zein and Lareem. Al-Masry-Al-Youm reported yesterday that she was among a group of family members including the president’s mother and cousins that was driving to the airport to leave but forced to turn back by an opposition ambush.
The UN estimates that more than 5,000 have died on both sides of Syrian fighting as the regime uses tanks, shell fire and sniper units to snuff out protests. The government assault is a particularly familial affair with Mr Assad’s brother Maher commanding the 4th Division of ultra loyal troops that have spearheaded operations.
Mr Maleh said that very soon “two armies” would be clashing around Syria as the security forces desert the regime enmasse.
“Most of the army will separate off from the Assad troops to protect their people,” he said. “Maher is particularly brutal, he will go out and shoot people himself, the ordinary troops don’t want this.”
The 80-year old dissident rebuffed Russian attempts to broker talks with the regime to end spiralling violence. “Talks will not happen. How can we have dialogue with a criminal regime, we can’t do it now,” Mr Maleh, a founding member of the executive committee of the SNC, said. “The game is over. How can we talk with a person who has put a pistol to our heads. It is impossible to make dialogue with this person.
The SNC was increasing its support for the Free Syria Army which has gained increasing numbers of army defections.
“We are sending them money and they ask for weapons, we are sending them some,” he said. “The Turkish government has allowed us to open an account in the name of the national council.”
Friends of Mrs Assad, who grew up in Acton and attended Queens College Marylebone, said they were sure she was repulsed by the violence in defence of the dictatorship.
“She would be horrified with what is happening,” said Malik al-Abdeh, a TV magnate speaking to The Times. “She lived most of her life here. Her ethics and morality were formed here. I think she must be genuinely shocked.”