JERUSALEM, Israel - Anti-government protesters in Syria promised the biggest nationwide demonstrations to date following Muslim prayers on Friday. Many of the protesters are calling for an end to the 40-year reign of the Assad family dynasty.
On Thursday, President Bashar al-Assad appointed Ghassan Abdul-Al as the new governor of Homs, a city near the border with Lebanon. Thousands took part in a funeral there Wednesday for an activist killed in earlier confrontations with security forces.
Neither Assad's brutal military crackdown nor his official endorsement Thursday of legislation passed earlier this week rescinding the 50-year-old emergency laws appear to have deterred protesters in Homs and other cities, including Banias and Aleppo.
But despite the level of unrest over the past month, Jonathan Spyer, director of the Herzliya Interdisciplinary Center's Global Research Center in International Affairs, told CBN News "the regime is confident it can still manage this."
"This regime is not yet a regime in its death throes. It thinks it will survive," Spyer said.
Nonetheless, more than a month of violent crackdown by Assad's security forces appears to have emboldened rather than intimidated protesters.
According to some human rights groups, Assad's forces have killed more than 200 demonstrators in the past month.
Israel Monitoring the Uprising
While Syria's unrest has not directly affected Israel, Strategic Affairs Minister Moshe Ya'alon said the IDF - Israel Defense Forces - "is ready for any scenario on the northern front."
"The events that have taken place in recent weeks in Syria prove that the people there are thirsty for freedom and openness that the current regime in Damascus is unable to provide," Ya'alon said.
For decades, Syria has played an active role, together with Iran, in arming Islamic terror groups such as Hezbollah in Lebanon and Hamas in the Gaza Strip. Syria has also amassed its own arsenal of long-range missiles that some experts say Damascus is prepared to arm with biological and chemical warheads.
"Of all the regime changes and uprisings-in-progress the Mideast has been witnessing, the Syrian one potentially harbors the greatest existential hazard [for Israel]," read an editorial in Thursday's Jerusalem Post.
Spyer agreed that should the Assad regime fall, it could potentially be replaced by a "young, hungry, more radical, more serious" successor. He also noted that "Syria could fracture along ethnic lines."
It's many ethnic groups - Kurds, Druze, Sunni Muslims, Alawites and Beduoin - congregate in different parts of the country.
"Syria could fracture along ethnic lines," he said. But beyond that, Spyer said he has no doubt "this regime will be prepared to use very violent means."
For three decades, Bashar's father, Hafez al-Assad, used security forces to control the population, while he controlled the state-run media.
In February 1982, government troops leveled half of the city of Hama, slaughtering up to 25,000 people. From 1982 to 1992, Assad's regime executed an estimated 10,000 people for alleged political dissent. His son continued the legacy of repression.
When the recent wave of unrest began in mid-March, Assad said Syria would not see the same scenario as Tunisia, Egypt, Bahrain, Jordan and Yemen, because his government understood the people and met their needs.
With Assad vacillating between concessions and brutality, most analysts agree he is prepared to use all of his military resources and as much brutal force as it takes to stay in power.