Since anti-government protests began in January 2011, President Bashar Assad's government has taken a hardline military approach to quashing demonstrations, but a more subtle approach of arresting influential activists has developed, the U.S. National Public Radio network reported.
A political analyst in Damascus who asked not to be identified told the broadcaster the government's arrest campaign is overshadowed by reports of demonstrations.
"They are cracking down on everything," the analysts said. "Not just humanitarian aid networks of doctors, but those who distribute toys to refugee children -- these people get arrested, too."
Andrew Tabler with the Washington Institute for Near East Policy told NPR the arrest sweep of dissidents appears to be timed to thwart United Nations' envoy Kofi Annan's monitoring plan.
"They are trying to detain, arrest and kill anyone they have differences with ahead of the U.N. monitors' arrival so they can better manage this national dialogue, which is outlined in the Annan plan," Tabler said.