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Obama "appalled" by Syrian massacres

US vows to put more pressure on regime as scores killed in Syrian government-backed military attack on cities, just before start of Ramadan.

Foreign press have been largely banned from Syria so the military attack on Hama has been recorded in citizen-captured videos like this of a vehicle on fire in Hama
Foreign press have been largely banned from Syria so the military attack on Hama has been recorded in citizen-captured videos like this of a vehicle on fire in Hama
Image: FreePressTV via YouTube.com

US PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA has said that the Syrian president is “completely incapable and unwilling” to respond to the “legitimate” grievances of the Syrian people.

Dozens of people were reported killed today as Syrian security forces escalated their response to protests against President Bashar Assad. In the city of Hama, a barrage of shelling and gunfire left bodies scattered in the streets.

Obama issued a statement saying he is “appalled” by the violence and brutality the Syrian government has aimed at its own people. He calls the reports from Hama “horrifying” and says they demonstrate the true character of the Syrian regime.

Ferocious assault

Syrian activists say death toll at least 45 in military attack on flashpoint city of Hama.  Security forces backed by tanks and snipers killed more than 70 people overall in a ferocious assault as the regime raced to crush dissent ahead of Ramadan, the Muslim holy month that could become a turning point in the nearly five-month-old uprising.

The worst carnage was in Hama, the scene of a 1982 massacre by President Bashar Assad’s late father and predecessor and a city with a history of defiance against 40 years of Assad family rule. Corpses were scattered in the streets and hospitals were overwhelmed with bloodied casualties, suggesting the death toll could rise sharply, witnesses said.

Ramadan, which begins tomorrow, will present a critical test for the government, which has unleashed deadly firepower since March but still has not been able to put down the revolt. Daily demonstrations are expected to surge during the holy month, when crowds gather in mosques each evening after the dawn-to-dusk fast.

Though the violence has so far failed to blunt the protests, the Syrian government appears to be hoping it can frighten people from taking to the streets during Ramadan. The protesters are promising to persevere.

The city looked like a war zone

Having sealed off the main roads into Hama almost a month ago, army troops in tanks pushed into the city from four sides before daybreak. Residents shouted “God is great!” and threw firebombs, stones and sticks at the tanks, residents said.

By mid-morning, the city looked like a war zone, residents said. The crackle of gunfire and thud of tank shells echoed across the city, and clouds of black smoke drifted over rooftops.

“It looks like Beirut,” said Hama resident Saleh Abu Yaman, likening his hometown to the Lebanese capital that still bears the scars of nearly two decades of civil war.

Syria has banned most foreign media and restricted coverage, making it difficult to confirm events on the ground. But interviews with witnesses, protesters and activists painted a grim picture of indiscriminate shelling and sniper fire as residents fought back by erecting barricades and throwing firebombs at their assailants.

It appeared the regime was making an example of Hama, a religiously conservative city about 130 miles (210 kilometers) north of the capital, Damascus. The city has largely has fallen out of government control since June as residents turned on the regime and blockaded the streets against encroaching tanks.

The United States and France enraged the government earlier this month when their ambassadors traveled to Hama in a trip designed to demonstrate solidarity with demonstrators.

Calls for defiance

But Sunday’s deadly siege only ignited more calls for defiance among protesters.

The Local Coordination Committees, which helps organize anti-government protests, urged people to take to the streets and start a general strike to protest the killings.

“If you don’t unchain yourselves now and save your country now, you will be ruled like slaves for years and decades to come,” the group said.

This report from AlJazeera has some members of the Syrian army that they are switching sides to “bring freedom to the people and bring down the regime”. NOTE: Some upsetting images at the beginning of this video:


This video – uploaded by FreePress user-generated TV appears to show the advance of tanks into Hama and bursts of gunfire:

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