|Syrian Army Deploys to Banias as Clashes Continue|
As violence escalates in Syria, security forces have sealed off the port city of Banias as the Government continues to crack down on protests.
Residents say at least four people were shot dead in Banias on Sunday in protests against President Bashar al-Assad's 11-year rule.
It comes just days after deadly clashes in Deraa, with reports that 26 protesters and 19 members of the security forces were killed.
State media reported the death of officers "in an ambush" and described the troops killed as "martyrs".
Middle East analyst James Denselow told Channel 4 News that the regime's "hardening rhetoric" is just as concerning as the increasing body count.
"It seems to be a thinly-veiled threat that if protesters continue to come out on the streets, they'll be met with more blunt tactics in terms of suppression.
It seems to be a thinly-veiled threat that if protesters continue to come out on the streets, they'll be met with more blunt tactics in terms of suppression. James Denselow, Middle East analyst
"It's nothing yet compared to what happened in the '80s when whole cities were virtually destroyed to quell protests. But it's very much a warning to protesters to stay at home."
Assad has offered to consider reforms, but critics say his proposals lack substance. His concession to grant citizenship to Kurds has been branded superficial at best.
In a much-anticipated address that promised major changes, Assad fronted state-TV only to blame protests on Syria's "enemies".
British-Arab journalist and Editor of J Magazine, Sakhr Al-Makhadhi, told Channel 4 News that Assad has become "a figurehead for the coalition but isn't necessarily in control".
But he said it is not in Syrians' best interests to topple their leader.
"He's trying to fight the battle for reform in Government but clearly losing massively," Mr Al-Makhadi said.
So if the Government were to fall, what comes next is perhaps far more hardline and dangerous.
Sakhr Al-Makhadhi, journalist and Editor of J magazine
"He's not in control, and if Syrians know this - which I think they do - then they're not fighting against him but the people around him.
"So if the Government were to fall, what comes next is perhaps far more hardline and dangerous."
Analyst James Denselow argues that while the western-educated President is an "unlikely dictator", his promises of political reform should not be trusted.
"When Syria un-banned Facebook after revolution began in the Middle East, it was largely seen as offering some sort of carrot to protesters that things might change. But it was really used as a better means to track protest movements. So one has to be healthily cynical about the Syrian Government's motives."
He says that while the protests are the biggest threat to Assad since he came to power, the regime is "not likely to crumble just yet".
"It's concentrated mainly in Deraa and poorer Kurdish heartlands around the border. And while Damascus has seen some protests, Assad still has a lot of support there and he's manipulated that quite effectively," he said.
But regardless of the size or ferocity of the clashes, he said Syrians have "no appetite for western intervention" beyond the rhetoric to defend human rights.
He also said he does not believe that Iran would step in to protect its strong strategic ties with Syria.
"Obviously they're very concerned that their strongest and most enduring ally - which provides a bridge to Lebanon - could be under threat.
"But beyond the advice they're giving on how to put down protests, they're not becoming involved."
"Tehran is staying very quiet. They know that the Iranian connection is not very popular among Syrians, especially among the Sunni majority who fear a Shia alliance. Certainly in the short term, I can't see Iran playing any role in at all," he said.
Mr Al-Makhadhi says the uprisings around the Arab world have "broken the boundary of fear" in Syria.
But he said with protests continuing, there is no sign of the bloodshed abating.
"I think these street fights are going to go on for a long time. They're likely to go on under the radar for months and even years to come. The Government has been hugely weakened by this, but it's likely to hobble on in this the same way because the protesters aren't out in large numbers and they don't have a consistent message."