Thursday, August 04, 2011


Death Toll Rises Sharply in Center of Syrian Revolt
By Nada Bakri
The New York Times, August 4, 2011
"The Syrian military forces that rolled into the rebellious city of Hama and occupied its central square have killed more than 100 people over the past 24 hours, according to rights activists in satellite telephone contact with a witness in the city. The ominous new toll raised the rough count of civilian dead there to more than 200 since the military's tanks began shelling Hama over the weekend. The military's assault on the city, a linchpin of the five-month-old uprising against the iron-handed government of President Bashar al-Assad, represents one of the fiercest efforts yet to crush the uprising and a signal of Mr. Assad's defiance in the face of growing international condemnation. Activists say the overall toll since March is more than 1,700. With foreign journalists barred from the country and the government close-mouthed about most aspects of the rebellions, activists have been the main source of information on the crackdowns and casualties. Landlines, cellphones, Internet service, electricity and water remained cut for the second consecutive day in Hama. Satellite connections offered perhaps the only route left to get information out. Activists said they feared the near total media blackout on the city would allow the military to pursue an unrestrained assault. Their fear is only deepened by the painful legacy of Hama, where Mr. Assad's father crushed an uprising in 1982 out of sight of the world, leaving upwards of 10,000 people dead and parts of the city leveled. Other activists spoke of a critical shortage in basic food staples and medical equipment. Hama has been surrounded since Sunday; cars trying to carry food into the city have been attacked, according to reports in recent days. Hundreds of people have been arrested in house-to-house raids. A resident who spoke to Al-Jazeera Satellite Channel said that shelling had been nearly continuous since the day before and that the city was completely disconnected from the outside world and from villages and towns surrounding it. 'The situation is very difficult,' he said, giving his name as Abu Al-Walid. 'The lack of electricity has spoiled food supplies. They are shelling the city around the clock.'
A Thursday morning post on the official Syrian Revolution Facebook page said that heavy gunfire could be heard across the city and that armed men loyal to the government have occupied private hospitals and snipers took positions on its rooftops. It also said that hospitals were suffering from shortage of basic supplies including fuel for generators, a crucial backup for electricity. Even as Mr. Assad escalated the assault on Hama, he endorsed a law allowing opposition political parties, a step that added to international outrage. France described the step as a 'provocation.' Six people were also reported killed across the country when troops and armed men loyal to the government opened fire at them during evening demonstrations held after special Ramadan prayers. Activists also said that at least 1,000 families had fled Hama since Sunday."
[n.b. This is the complete text of the dispatch.]

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