Friday, July 8, 2011

Syrian Protest Seen Bolstered By U.S. Envoy's Visit

Syrian protests erupt as regime lashes at U.S.

BEIRUT (AP) — Hundreds of thousands of Syrians poured into the streets of the opposition stronghold Hama on Friday, bolstered by a gesture of support from the American and French ambassadors who visited the city where a massacre nearly 30 years ago came to symbolize the ruthlessness of the Assad dynasty.
Pro-regime protesters demonstrate to show support for President Bashar Assad.

The visit by U.S. Ambassador Robert Ford drew swift condemnation from the Syrian government, which said the unauthorized trip was proof that Washington was inciting violence in the Arab nation.
State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland called the charge "absolute rubbish."
Mass demonstrations also erupted in cities and towns nationwide, triggering a crackdown that killed at least 13 people, activists said. But Hama's protest was by far the largest, galvanizing residents in a city that has drawn the biggest crowds since the revolt began nearly four months ago.
Although Assad still has a firm grip on power, international criticism over the brutal crackdown has left his regime shaken and isolated as it struggles to contain a protest movement that refuses to die.
The protesters have yet to come out in sustained numbers in the largest cities, Damascus and Aleppo, although there were scattered protests Friday and security forces killed one protester in Damascus.
The regime has staged large demonstrations in the capital, including on Friday, to showcase its support.
In recent days, Hama residents have largely sealed off their city, setting up makeshift checkpoints with burning tires and concrete blocks to prevent security forces from storming into the city.
"As long as we have no security forces, we have no violence," a Hama residents told The Associated Press by telephone from the city, asking that his name not be published out of fear for his safety.
Hama poses a potential dilemma for the Syrian regime because of its place as a symbol of opposition to the rule of the Assad family. In 1982, the late Hafez Assad ordered troops to crush a rebellion by Islamist forces, killing between 10,000 and 25,000 people, rights activists say.Read more...

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