Text size:

  • Small
  • Normal
  • Large
Activists in Hama come under attack from government forces on Sunday, but say they will not allow a repeat of 1982's crackdown. YouTube via Reuters
Activists in Hama come under attack from government forces on Sunday, but say they will not allow a repeat of 1982's crackdown. YouTube via Reuters

Assad's troops and tanks keep up assault on city of Hama

Homs and Hama face renewed assaults as Assad praises army¿s ¿efforts and sacrifices¿, while Obama slams the ¿horrifying¿ violence and EU widens sanctions.

BEIRUT // Syrian troops kept up attacks on the city of Hama yesterday, a day after a brutal crackdown on anti-government protesters killed at least 70 and drew harsh rebukes from the US and Europe.

The European Union expanded its sanctions against Syria, imposing asset freezes and travel bans against five more military and government officials. The EU decision brings the number of individuals targeted by the EU to 35, including the president Bashar Al Assad. Four government entities are also on the list.

Sunday was one of the bloodiest days since the uprising against Mr Al Assad's authoritarian rule began in mid-March. Six Syrian rights groups said in a joint statement that 74 people were killed throughout the country, 55 of them from Hama and neighbouring villages.

Syrian troops backed by tanks renewed shelling of Hama for a second day yesterday in an attempt to subdue the city.

Hama resident Saleh Abu Yaman said there was heavy shooting in the north-eastern Hamidiyeh neighbourhood - which he described as a hotbed of anti-regime activists. Rami Abdul-Rahman, the head of the London-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, said troops raided Hamidiyeh and killed at least two people and wounded 10. He cited hospital officials in the city.

Mr Abdul-Rahman said security forces shot another person dead in the eastern town of al-Boukamal near the border with Iraq. The Local Coordination Committees, which helps organise anti-government protests, said five people were killed yesterday of which three were in Hama, one in al-Boukamal and another in the nearby city of Deir el-Zour.

"Residents are committed to resistance through peaceful means," Hama-based activist Omar Hamawi said by telephone yesterday. The city's streets are full of barriers as well as thousands of men "who are ready to defend the city with stones," he said. "People will not surrender this time. We will not allow a repetition of what happened in 1982."

Mr Al Assad praised troops for "foiling the enemies" of Syria, the state news agency Sana said yesterday.

In a speech marking the 66th anniversary of the Syrian army's formation, Sana cited Mr Al Assad as saying that the military "proved its loyalty to its people, country and creed".

"Its efforts and sacrifices will be admired," he was quoted as saying, adding that "these sacrifices succeeded in foiling the enemies of the country and ending sedition, preserving Syria."

In the speech, which Sana republished in English from the People's Army magazine, Mr Al Assad saluted the armed forces, calling them a "model of commitment to the nation's causes and a defender of its rights".

"Syria is used to creating victories and defeating the enemies ... it knows how to do it to add a new victories and leave warmongers and blood merchants to taste the bitterness of defeat and disappointment," he was quoted as saying. The escalating government crackdown appears aimed at preventing the protests from swelling during Ramadan. Muslims throng mosques during Ramadan for special night-time prayers after breaking their daily dawn-to-dusk fast. The gatherings could trigger intense protests throughout the predominantly Sunni country and activists say authorities are trying to prevent that.

The worst carnage on Sunday was in Hama, the scene of a 1982 crackdown by Mr Al Assad's late father and predecessor and a city with a history of defiance against 40 years of Al Assad family rule. Hospitals there were overwhelmed with casualties, suggesting the death toll could rise sharply, witnesses said.

It appeared the regime was making an example of Hama, a city of about 800,000 people about 210 kilometres north of the capital, Damascus. The city has largely fallen out of government control since June as residents turned on the regime and blockaded the streets against encroaching tanks.

The US president, Barack Obama, on Sunday called the reports "horrifying" and said Mr Al Assad is "completely incapable and unwilling" to respond to the legitimate grievances of the Syrian people.

Yesterday, Britain's foreign secretary, William Hague, said there was no prospect of international military intervention in Syria.

* Associated Press with additional reporting by Agence France-Presse

Back to the top

More articles

Editor's Picks

 Iranian President Hassan Rouhani greeted by university students as he leaves Sistan University in Sistan and Baluchestan’s provincial capital of Zahedan on Tuesday, April 15, 2014. Maryam Rahmanian for The National

In Iran’s most troubled province, Rouhani hears pleas for change

Hassan Rounani aims to connect with residents of far-flung Sistan and Baluchestan province.

 Prince Bandar bin Sultan in Riyadh on March 3, 2007. Hassan Ammar / AFP Photo

Saudi Prince Bandar promised a victory he could not deliver

Saudi Arabia's controversial intelligence chief stepped down this week after rumours that his policies on Syria had fallen out of favour.

 Iranian President Hassan Rouhani greets supporters after his arrival in Zahedan, the regional capital of Sistan and Baluchestan province on Tuesday, April 15, 2014. During Mr Rouhani's two-day visit, he will tour several other cities and hold meetings with local scholars and entrepreneurs. Maryam Rahmanian for The National

On the road with Hassan Rouhani

Iran's president is touring some of Iran's most underdeveloped provinces. Foreign correspondent Yeganeh Salehi is traveling with him.

 Twitter photo of  Abdel Fattah El Sisi on the campaign trail on March 30. Photo courtesy-Twitter/@SisiCampaign

El Sisi rides a bicycle, kicks off social media storm

The photos and video created a huge buzz across social media networks, possibly a marker of a new era for Egypt.

 Friday is UN Mine Awareness Day and Omer Hassan, who does demining work in Iraqi Kurdistan, is doing all he can to teach people about the dangers posed by landmines. Louise Redvers for The National

A landmine nearly ended Omer’s life but he now works to end the threat of mines in Iraq

Omer Hassan does demining work in Iraqi Kurdistan and only has to show people his mangled leg to underscore the danger of mines. With the world marking UN Mine Awareness Day on Friday, his work is as important as ever as Iraq is one of the most mine-affected countries in the world.

 Turkey's Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Turkish spiritual leader Fethullah Gulen. AFP Photo

The inner workings of Gulen’s ‘parallel state’

Fethullah Gulen's followers are accused of trying to push Turkey's prime minister from power.


To add your event to The National listings, click here

Get the most from The National