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Monday, August 15, 2011
SYRIAN BRUTAL CRACKDOWN: Tank, navy attack on Syria kills 26: witnesses!
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Reuters / ibnlive.in.com / Posted on Aug 15, 2011 at 09:30am IST.
Amman: Syrian tanks and navy ships shelled the main Mediterranean port city of Latakia on Sunday, residents and rights groups said, killing 26 people as President Bashar al-Assad's forces launched an offensive by land and sea to crush protests against his rule.
Since the beginning of the fasting month of Ramadan on August 1, Assad's forces have mounted operations across the country to try to suppress protests demanding political freedom and an end to 41 years of Assad family rule.
"I can see the silhouettes of two grey vessels. They are firing their guns and the impact is landing on al-Raml al-Filistini and al-Shaab neighbourhoods," one witness told Reuters by phone from Latakia, where tanks and armoured vehicles were deployed three months ago to crush dissent against Assad in mainly Sunni neighbourhoods of the mixed city.
"This is the most intense attack on Latakia since the uprising. Anyone who sticks his head out of the window risks being shot. They want to finish off the demonstrations for good," he said.
Around 20,000 people have been rallying daily to demand Assad's removal in different areas of the city after Ramadan evening prayers, said the witness, a university student who did not want to be further identified.
The Syrian National Organisation for Human Rights, headed by dissident Ammar al-Qurabi, said it had the names of 26 civilians killed in Latakia, including a two-year-old girl, Ola al-Jablawi. The deaths came after security forces shot dead 20 people during nationwide marches on Friday.
Assad comes from Qerdaha, a village in the Alawite Mountains 28 km southeast of Latakia, where his father, the late President Hafez al-Assad, is buried.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said most of the casualties were shot by machineguns.
"After heavy firing, troops and shabbiha (militiamen loyal to Assad) have reached the main square in al-Raml al-Filistini, where the crowds have been demonstrating peacefully for freedom and the downfall of the regime," said a statement by the opposition group.
The Syrian Revolution Coordinating Union said four more civilians were killed elsewhere in Syria on Sunday.
The official state news agency denied that Latakia was shelled from the sea and said two police and four unidentified armed men were killed when "order preservation forces pursued armed men who were terrorising residents.. and using machineguns and explosives from rooftops and from behind barricades."
The assaults by Syrian security forces are being met with increasing international condemnation. United Nations deputy political affairs chief Oscar Fernandez-Taranco was quoted by diplomats in New York on Wednesday as saying Assad's forces had killed nearly 2,000 Syrian civilians since March -- 188 since July 31 and 87 on August 8 alone.
The 57-member Organisation of Islamic Cooperation called on Saturday for an immediate halt to the military campaign against protesters. U.S. President Barack Obama and Saudi Arabia's King Abdullah repeated their calls for the military assaults to stop.
Obama spoke to British Prime Minister David Cameron and the leaders called for an immediate end to attacks by Assad's forces, the White House said.