AMMAN - Syrian troops raided houses in a Sunni district of the besieged port of Latakia on Wednesday, residents said, arresting hundreds of people and taking them to a stadium after a four-day tank assault to crush protests against President Bashar Assad.
Latakia is of particular significance to Assad, from Syria's minority Alawite community. The 45-year-old president, a self-declared champion of the Palestinian cause, comes from a village to the southeast, where his father is buried. The Assad family, along with friends, control the city's port and its finances.
"Shelling and the sound of tank machine guns subdued today. They are busing hundreds to the Sports City from al-Raml. People who are picked up randomly from elsewhere in Latakia are also being take there," said a resident, referring to a complex that was venue for the Mediterranean Games in the 1980s.
"The Sports City's stadiums are serving to house refugees and prevent them from fleeing outside Latakia, and as we have seen in other cities that were assaulted, as a detention center," Observatory Director Rami Abdelrahman told Reuters.