Syria: tens of thousands defy regime in Ramadan protests

Tens of thousands returned to the streets in towns and cities across Syria for the first Friday protests of the Ramadan holy month Aug. 5, especially declaring their support for the residents of Hama, where an estimated 200 have been killed in a military crackdown over the past week. Rights advocates said 14 were killed in Erbin, Homs and Mouadhamiya. State-run Syrian TV broadcast footage from inside Hama for the first time, showing scenes of burned-out buildings, barricaded streets and damaged cars. In YouTube footage purporting to come from protesters in Hama, heavy gunfire can be heard and improvised roadblocks seen in the street, with a tank in the background. A voice says in Arabic: “Hama, 5 August 2011, severe artillery shooting in Hama… tanks incursion of Hama… gangs of Bashar al-Assad are shooting Hama neighborhoods.” The date and name of the city are repeated. (The Guardian, Reuters, Aug. 5)

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  1. Syria bombs itself
    At least 21 people have been killed and others injured after Syrian warships and tanks opened fire on the port city of Latakia in two residential districts Aug. 14, activists said. The deaths were reported as a military assault on Latakia extended into a second day. The day before, at least five people were killed and several others injured as at least 20 tanks and armoured personnel carriers rolled into the city. (AlJazeera, Aug. 14)

    Syrian President Bashar al-Assad said this week that his forces will continue to pursue “terrorist groups” after Turkey pressed him to end the military assault against protesters. Syria “will not relent in pursuing the terrorist groups in order to protect the stability of the country and the security of the citizens,” state news agency SANA quoted Assad as telling Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu. The dictator of course added that Syria “is also determined to continue reforms … and is open to any help offered by friendly and brotherly states.” (Reuters, Aug. 8)