/ 31 July 2011

Syrian crackdown leads to 136 deaths, protesters furious

Syrian Crackdown Leads To 136 Deaths

Over 136 people were killed on Sunday in a fresh government crackdown on pro-democracy protesters across Syria, described by activists as a decisive moment in their fight against President Bashar al-Assad’s regime.

“The harsh crackdown is a means of telling protesters even if Ramadan starts we will keep killing you if you go out to the streets,” Syrian activist Omar Idlibi said.

The crackdown comes one day before the Islamic holy fasting month of Ramadan, which starts on Monday. Protesters have vowed to hold protests every night during Ramadan and continue until dawn.

“We tell them we will continue and won’t stop no matter what means you use on us,” added Idlibi, who is based in Lebanon.

Activists wrote on the Syria Revolution page online that “if this campaign fails to achieve its goal, it will mark the beginning of the end for the regime”.

At least 100 people were killed when the Syrian army stormed the flashpoint central city of Hama.

“Hama is used to massacres by the Assad family, but we tell this tyrant the more you kill us, the more we are determined to oust you,” an activist, who requested anonymity, told the German Press Agency by phone.

In 1982, a government crackdown left more than 20 000 dead in the city, when the town’s Sunni population attempted to revolt against then president Hafez al-Assad’s minority Alawite sect.

On Sunday, tanks stormed the city at dawn, shelling different neighbourhoods. Electricity and water supplies to the main areas were cut before the attack began.

Troops surrounded one of the major hospitals to prevent the wounded from reaching it. Over 100 people were injured in the attacks.

Activists also said that four buses filled with security forces personnel arrived at the Southern entrance of Hama, located around 200 kilometres north of Damascus.

Dozens killed
Local human rights advocates say that around 1 600 civilians have been killed since protests began, calling for the ousting of al-Assad began in mid-March. Over 350 security personnel have also been killed.

In the southern Harak town, in Daraa province, several people, among them a three-year-old girl, were killed after security forces stormed the town.

Tanks surrounded Harak and black smoke was covering the city and no one can reach the town as all roads are blocked, an activist in the provincial capital Daraa said.

In the eastern city of Deir el-Zour, at least 19 people were killed when tanks stormed al-Joura district early Sunday. Dozens were injured, activists said.

At least two were also killed in the northern Idlib city.

National Day
Tanks entered the Damascus suburb of Moadamiyya, while government forces used teargas to break a demonstration of around 1 000 protesters in the Daraya suburb who were chanting for toppling the regime and in support of cities under military attacks, the local coordination committees of Syria said in its online group.

In another suburb, Zabadany, eight soldiers defected from their positions. A search campaign is being conducted by security forces looking for them.

Reports of defections among Syrian troops appeared almost daily over the past month, raising hopes among activists that this will weaken the military institution.

The government and army are dominated by members of the Alawite sect, a Shi’ite Muslim offshoot, loyal to al-Assad and his ruling Baath party, which has ruled over Syria since in 1970.

Meanwhile the state-run agency SANA praised the Syrian Arab army on the occasion of the August 1 national day, saying it “represents an honourable and brilliant image of the military institution … through its valour in providing security and stability for all citizens.”

It continued the government line of blaming terrorist groups for the unrest, saying the army was confronting “criminal acts of armed terrorist groups who terrified the people, killed innocents and sabotaged private and public property”. — Sapa