Hama: The Syrian army has stormed the western city of Hama, with residents saying that dozens of people have been killed and injured. Hama, a hub of anti-government protest, has been besieged for nearly a month. Locals have reported “intense gunfire” after troops and tanks moved into the city from several directions at dawn.
The army is signalling that it will not tolerate large-scale unrest ahead of the month of Ramadan, when protests are expected to grow.
Syria has seen more than four months of protests against the rule of President Bashar al-Assad.
A doctor in Hama told the media that the death toll was rising rapidly, putting the latest estimate at 95.
“[Tanks] are firing their heavy machineguns randomly and overrunning makeshift road blocks erected by the inhabitants,” he said by phone, with machinegun fire in the background.
Residents of northern Hama, where the attack seemed to be concentrated, said tank shells were falling at the rate of four a minute there. They also confirmed deaths in the area.
Electricity and water supplies had been cut, they said, in a tactic regularly used by the military when storming towns to crush protests.
The government blames armed Islamist gangs for the unrest, but reports say the protests appear largely peaceful, with only isolated cases of residents arming themselves against the military assault.