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Syrian army moves into Hama after massive demonstrations

Day 112 of the Syrian Revolution and Assad’s crackdown on the anti-government movement continues as tanks move on the city of Hama.

ALMOST 100 TANKS have made their way into the city of Hama as President Bashar al-Assad’s crackdown on anti-government protests continues, activist groups in Syria reported last night.

Following Friday’s massive demonstrations in Hama – the biggest seen since the unrest began 16 weeks ago – al-Assad has moved the attentions of his security forces to the central city but protestors have not been deterred.

Activists groups have rejected Assad’s offer of a “National Dialogue” and there is some evidence this morning that a high-ranking army Colonel has defected from the regime.

One activist group, the Local Coordinating Committee in Syria, said that citizens had started to build barriers at entrances to the city of Hama last night to try and block the advance of the vehicles and soldiers.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights told Al Jazeera that at least 250 people were arrested throughout the night in the city.

According to The Guardian, about 40 people were injured during the clashes but doubts have now been cast over initial reports that one of those wounded was Olympic medal-winning boxer Nasser al-Shami. Twitter updates from the SyrianJasmine account say there was a mix-up in reporting and the man shot was not the sports star but a young boy of the same name.

#Syria #hama one of Hama martyrs today is Nasr AlShami from Marabet neighborhood who has been confused with the boxer Naser AlShami due to communication breakdown and poor security conditions that prevented the verification of the news

The latest reports on Al Jazeera claim that at least seven people were shot dead by the military across the country in the past 24 hours. Among the victims is a 13-year-old boy, who witnesses say was killed and then dumped in a nearby river.

Mass detentions also occurred across the country and fears are growing for the safety of journalist and activist Omar al-Assad who was arrested in the suburbs of Damascus on Sunday.

The LCCS issued a statement this morning to reject any “national dialogue” with the government. A “consultation meeting” has been scheduled for this Sunday but activists believe the move is not genuine and has been designed to placate international powers who are calling for a “political solution”.

From the activists’ statement:

This move has been taken by the regime while its forces are continuing its siege and shelling with tanks and artillery of many cities, and are still killing and arbitrarily detaining many protestors and torturing them to death in some cases.

The group concluded that it will continue with its peaceful revolution as it believes this is the only way to achieve its objectives.

Meanwhile, in a potentially critical development, Al Jazeera has footage claiming to show a high-ranking army official defecting from the regime.

In the video with translated subtitles, Colonel Riyad Musa al-Asa’d purportedly declares his defection from the Arab Syria Army because of its repressive practices against civilians.

He also mentions the pressures put on soldiers by their leaders. Reports in the past few weeks have claimed that some soldiers and officers were shot because they refused to open fire on peaceful, civilian protests.

Here’s a copy of the video with English subtitles.

Independent verification of most reports coming out of Syria is next to impossible as no foreign journalists are allowed near the sites of anti-government protests.

This morning, the State news agency SANA is carrying images of supposed rallies in support of the Assad regime, while the LCCS has called on the government to allow foreign reporters into the country to cover the current events.

Read: A timeline on what’s been happening in Syria since March 15 >