Syrian army shells Hama, seizes central square
Beirut, Aug 4: Syrian tanks stormed Hama under heavy shelling Wednesday, taking over a main square at the heart of the restive city and cutting off electricity, water and phone lines on the fourth day of an offensive.
Opposition figures and activists accused the regime of striking hard at a moment when world and media attention were distracted by the trial in Egypt of former President Hosni Mubarak.
“Hama is being collectively punished for its peaceful protests calling for the downfall of Bashar Assad,” said Suheir Atassi, a prominent pro-democracy activist. Like many others Syria-based activists, Atassi has gone largely into hiding and spoke to The Associated Press via email. “The Syrian regime is committing crimes against humanity. Where are the free people of the world?” she said.
At least three tanks took up positions in Hama’s central Assi square, which in recent weeks had been the site of carnival-like demonstrations by hundreds of thousands of protesters calling for the downfall of President Assad’s regime.
A religiously conservative city about 130 miles (210 kilometers) north of the capital with a history of dissent, Hama had largely fallen 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, tightening their siege on Hama and sending residents fleeing for their lives. The death toll since Sunday has reached around 100, but the exact figure is difficult to verify.
The regime may be thinking that regaining control of Hama will blunt the uprising, which is in its fifth month and has so far proved remarkably resilient.
Activists reported a new military push into the city early in the day, with fresh explosions, fierce shelling by tanks and machine gun fire heard in many parts of the city. Clouds of smoke hung over many of its rickety apartment buildings.
“We are being subjected to shelling, machine gun fire, snipers fire, everything you can think of,” said activist Omar Hamawi.
Electricity and telephone lines were cut Wednesday morning but mobile phone lines appeared to have been partially restored by early afternoon.
Hamawi, reached by phone, said the shelling was mostly targeting al-Hader neighborhood. He said sporadic tank and gunfire was also heard in various other parts of the city. He spoke briefly saying he had to save his phone battery to call and check on relatives.
Telephone calls to other activists and Hama residents were not going through.
Activists said residents continued to leave the city but were being hampered by gunfire and random shelling from security forces and soldiers.
“A building and many houses have collapsed due to the shelling,” reported the Local Coordination Committees, an activist group that helps organize and tracks protests in Syria.
About 1,700 civilians have been killed since the largely peaceful protests against Assad’s regime began in mid- March, according to tallies by activists. The Hama operation has drawn a fresh wave of international condemnation against a regime defying the growing calls to end its crackdown on anti-government protesters.
Lastupdate on : Thu, 4 Aug 2011 21:30:00 Makkah time
Lastupdate on : Thu, 4 Aug 2011 18:30:00 GMT
Lastupdate on : Fri, 5 Aug 2011 00:00:00 IST
- MORE FROM WORLD
Hundreds attend Namaz-e-Jinazah, Fateha on Sunday
GK NEWS NETWORK
Srinagar, Aug 4: Prominent businessman and philanthropist Bakshi Abdul Qayoom son of Bakshi Ghulam Nabi passed away Thursday morning after a brief spell of illness. He was 71. Qayoom, who was also More
- Srinagar City
Locals aghast over ‘callous attitude’ of authorities during Ramazan
GK CITY REPORTER
Srinagar, Aug 4: Huge heaps of construction material junk and other waste near the entrance of Jamia Masjid at Nowhatta mock at the coalition government claims that “extra attention will be paid towards More
LIVING ON THE EDGE
GK NEWS NETWORK
Batote, Aug 4: It may sound incredible, but it’s true. Hundreds of people of Saraj area in Ramban district remain cut off from rest of the world since last more than a year and now only hope of their survival More
- South Asia
Kabul, Aug 4: A Nato soldier has been shot dead in eastern Afghanistan by a man dressed in police uniform, officials say. It is the latest in a series of such attacks and is being investigated.  More
Beirut, Aug 4: Syrian tanks stormed Hama under heavy shelling Wednesday, taking over a main square at the heart of the restive city and cutting off electricity, water and phone lines on the fourth day More