Hama residents duck to avoid bullets from Syrian army 311 R.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
AMMAN - The death toll in Syria's violent crackdown on opposition to
Syrian President Bashar Assad in the city of Hama and elsewhere climbed
on Tuesday, spurring Western efforts to pile diplomatic pressure on
RELATED:UNSC relaunches draft condemnation of Damascus Hama suffers heaviest barrage of shelling in 2-day assault
Tanks pounded residential neighborhoods across Hama,
the scene of a 1982 massacre, after evening prayers on Monday, the first
day of Ramadan, the Muslim fasting month, witnesses said.
rights campaigners said assaults by Assad's forces across Syria
overnight and on Monday had killed at least 24 civilians, including 10
in Hama, where troops and tanks began a violent operation to regain
control on Sunday.
That brought the total to about 134 dead
throughout Syria in the past three days, 90 of them in Hama, according
to witnesses, residents and rights campaigners.
Syria's state news agency said "armed terrorist groups" had killed eight
policemen in Hama. The government blames such groups for most killings
in the five-month-old revolt, saying more than 500 soldiers and security
personnel have died.
The plight of Hama has prompted many Syrians to stage solidarity marches
since the start of Ramadan, but Assad's tough response suggests he will
resist calls for change that have swept Syria and much of the Arab
world this year.
Syria has incurred international opprobrium for its harsh measures, but
need not fear the kind of foreign military intervention that NATO
launched to back rebels in Libya.
The top US military officer called for a swift end to violence
in Syria, but only diplomatic pressure was in view.
"There's no indication whatsoever that the Americans are, that we would
get involved directly with respect to this," Admiral Mike Mullen,
chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told reporters at the end of a
visit to Iraq.
Consultations at the UN Security Council on Monday failed to produce
agreement on adopting a Western-backed draft resolution condemning Syria
or settling for a less binding statement.
Italy recalled its ambassador from Syria on Tuesday in protest at the
"horrible repression of the civilian population" and urged other
European Union members to do the same.
The EU formally added five more Syrian officials
to an existing list of 29 individuals headed by Assad, whom the 27-nation bloc has targeted with asset freezes and travel bans.
Apart from the 10 deaths in the latest violence in Hama, two civilians
were killed in the town of Albu Kamal on the Iraqi border, which was
also stormed by tanks, three in house-to-house raids in the city of
Homs, two in the port city of Latakia and six in the Damascus suburb of
Erbin after protests that followed night-time Ramadan prayers, rights
A score of tanks and troops carriers entered the town of Zabadani near
the border with Lebanon after people demonstrated in support of Hama
following evening prayers, residents said. At least three protesters
were wounded by machine gun fire.
'Shells are falling once every 10 seconds'
The attack on Hama has evoked memories of a bloody 1982 confrontation
when Assad's father Hafez al-Assad crushed an armed Islamist revolt,
killing many thousands of people.
"The shells are falling once every 10 seconds," a witness in Hama told
Reuters by telephone on Monday. The thump of artillery and explosions
could be heard in the background.
YouTube footage, purportedly from Hama, showed tanks and smoke, with the
sound of explosions and shouts of "Allahu Akbar (God is great)...We are
witnessing the reforms of Bashar".
Another video shows a man lying on a street with his head sliced off by shrapnel.
With most foreign reporters barred from Syria, it was impossible to verify the content of the clips.
Nor was it possible to verify footage shown on Syrian state television,
also said to be from Hama, which showed gunmen firing at the military
from streets and rooftops. It also shows scenes of dead soldiers being
thrown into a river.
Security forces, dominated by Assad's minority Alawite sect, had
besieged Hama, a mainly Sunni Muslim city of 700,000, for nearly a month
before the assault.