By KHALED YACOUB OWEIS | REUTERS Arab News
AMMAN: Syrian tanks firing shells and machineguns stormed the city of Hama on Sunday, killing at least 80 civilians in a move to crush demonstrations against President Bashar Al-Assad’s rule, rights activists and residents said.
Assad’s forces began their assault on the city, scene of a 1982 massacre, at dawn after besieging it for nearly a month. The state news agency said the military entered Hama to purge armed groups “shooting intensively to terrorize citizens.”
A US embassy official dismissed the official account, saying Syrian authorities had begun a war against their own people by attacking Hama. Britain and France, which had led European overtures toward Assad, also condemned the assault.
“It is desperate. The authorities think that somehow they can prolong their existence by engaging in full armed warfare on their own citizens,” US Press Attache J.J. Harder told Reuters by telephone from Damascus. He described the official Syrian description of the violence as “nonsense.”
The Syrian human rights organization Sawasiah said the civilian death toll in Hama had risen to 80. The independent group cited medical officials and witnesses in its report. read more