In February 1962 the Syrian army, under the orders of President Hafez al-Assad, killed at least ten thousand civilians in the town of Hama. The operation was directed personally by the President's younger brother, Rifaat al-Assad, against the Sunni Muslim population of Hama who had revolted against al-Assad's rule. The massacre was subsequently described as the single deadliest act by any government against its own people in the modern Middle East.
Today Hafez al-Assad has been succeeded by his son Bashar al-Assad who also has brothers and uncles strategically placed in key positions in Syria's Army and security services.
Like father, like son? All the killings that have taken place in Syria in recent weeks may not yet add up to those of 1962 but there is still time.
Bashar al-Assad is spreading his military around the country to terrorise protestors who seek little more than the democratic reforms he promises but does not deliver. In some places the army's tactics have not been very different from the scorched earth terror used by his father in Hama fifty years ago.
The West's reaction to these dark deeds in Syria have thus far been confined to sanctions and the withdrawal of travelling rights on ministers and senior officials. But not on Bashar al-Assad himself. Why so? Is he not the Gaddafi of Syria?