There is still no definitive explanation of the clashes among Alawites in Qardaha – President Assad's home town – which we reported here in the live blog on Tuesday and Wednesday.
Whatever happened at the weekend was clearly serious, because the town was still sealed off yesterday, according to an article in the Telegraph.
Those trying to get information from their relatives in the town reported that phone lines were down and roads to the mountain town were shut off.
Even in normal times, fights between smugglers and gangsters in the town are not uncommon, and one theory is that the weekend clashes were just another example of that.However, the Telegraph article says the latest clashes were politically motivated. If true, this would be a significant development – the first sign of divisions in the Alawite community that dominates the Syrian regime.
The battle at the weekend was the first sign of open rivalry over the leadership of the Syrian President, residents told the Daily Telegraph.The article suggests that as casualties on their own side mount, some of the Alawites are beginning to waver in their support for President Assad.
"This is the first time there is fighting over a political issue. This could have serious repercussions," said a student calling himself Ahmed whose cousin lives in the town.
Over the past year and half many Alawite communities supporting the regime have seen the uprising, and now the civil war, as a desperate battle for their continued survival.
But as families see their young soldiers coming home in body bags "everyday" that support is cracking.
"The walls are covered in posters showing the faces of the young men that have been killed," one resident said ...
The battles and reportedly widespread resentment seething in Assad's home town is the first sign of an Alawite community starting to turn against the Syrian President, said [analyst Ayman] Haddad....."