A decline in Bashar al-Assad’s popularity amid traditional supporters, refelcted on social media, has gained momentum, with new calls for him to be replaced with one of his brutal commanders.
Online activists from Assad’s Alawite sect said that Colonel Suhail al-Hassan, who leads the military operations in Hama province is the most suitable man to replace Assad, saying Syria is in need of a strong leader who is brave and fearless.
Veteran British journalist Robert Fisk praised Hassan's achievements in a report, calling him 'Tiger' and saying that he refused to take credit for a promotion to brigadier.
Regime supporters have turned to social media to reflect their rage and anger at Assad over the radical Islamic State's (IS) humiliating defeats against the armed forces in eastern Syria.
The execution of scores of Syrian soldiers taken captive by IS at an airbase in Raqqa province has triggered unusually harsh social media criticism of the Damascus government by people who have taken its side in the civil war, Reuters reported.
Footage subsequently released on YouTube and broadcast by Arab news channels showed Islamic State fighters executing scores of Syrian soldiers after forcing them to march in the desert in nothing but their underwear.
Ahmed al-Ahmed, a Syrian writer from the Alawite sect, said on Facebook that “for who we should die, our sons are not puppets and they are not for sale or slaughter.”
Alawites are worried by both the Islamic State and recent attempts by Al-Qaeda's Syrian arm, the Nusra Front, to advance closer to their areas, said an anti-Assad Alawite who lives near the coast, speaking via Skype to Reuters.
"The Alawite community is afraid. People here are angry. They're upset that the government abandoned those soldiers. They are also worried now that the battles are coming so close," Reuters quoted an activist, who spoke on condition of anonymity because of fears for his safety.
Translated and edited by The Syrian Observer