Friday, August 5, 2011

Syrians pour into the streets despite deadly siege

Security forces opened fire as tens of thousands of protesters poured into the streets across Syria on Friday calling for the downfall of President Bashar Assad's regime, defying a deadly military siege on the city of Hama where government tanks blasted residential areas before dawn.
Friday's protests spread from the capital, Damascus, to the southern province of Daraa and Deir el-Zour in the east. Other demonstrations were reported in Qamishli in the north to Homs in the center, activists said.
Security forces fired on protesters in several cities. At least three were wounded in the Damascus suburb of Arbeen, said Rami Abdul-Rahman, who heads the London-based Observatory for Human Rights. More than 1,700 civilians have been killed in the regime crackdown on the uprising since March.
Hama, which has which has become the epicenter of the country's uprising, has been under a fierce assault for the past six days. A resident said tanks resumed shelling the city around 4 a.m. on Friday.
"If people get wounded, it is almost impossible to take them to hospital," the resident said by telephone, asking for anonymity for fear of government reprisals.
He added that the city was also bombed at sunset Thursday as people were breaking their dawn-to-dusk fast, which Muslims observe during the holy month of Ramadan.
Hama, a city of 800,000 with a history of dissent, had fallen largely out of government control since June as residents turned on the regime and blockaded the streets against encroaching tanks. But Syrian security forces backed by tanks and snipers launched a ferocious military offensive that left corpses in streets Sunday and sent residents fleeing for their lives, according to residents.
At least 100 people have been killed since Sunday's military assault began, according to human rights groups.
In 1982, Assad's father, Hafez Assad, ordered the military to quell a rebellion by Syrian members of the conservative Muslim Brotherhood movement there. Hama was sealed off and bombs dropped from above smashed swaths of the city and killed between 10,000 and 25,000 people, rights groups say.
Although there has been a near-total communications blackout in Hama — with electricity, internet and phone service cut off — witnesses have painted a grim picture of life in the city.
"People are being slaughtered like sheep while walking in the street," a resident said Thursday, speaking by phone on condition of anonymity for fear of reprisals. "I saw with my own eyes one young boy on a motorcycle who was carrying vegetables being run over by a tank." He said he left Hama briefly through side roads to smuggle in food supplies.More...

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