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24 die as Syrians take to streets

world Updated: Aug 06, 2011 23:30 IST
The Guardian

Tens of thousands of Syrians returned to the streets to denounce president Bashar al-Assad's regime and declare support for the residents of Hama, where an estimated 200 residents have been killed in a government assault since Sunday.

Troops opened fire on crowds of demonstrators after Friday prayers, killing at least 24 people amid mounting international condemnation of the brutal tactics deployed by Assad's forces in the five-month uprising.

In Hama, tanks resumed shelling of residential districts around 4am, as people were beginning their fast for Ramadan, a resident told Associated Press.

State-run Syrian TV released footage from inside Hama for the first time, showing widespread devastation on the streets. Scenes of burned-out buildings, barricaded roads and damaged cars suggest the battles have been far more intense than the regime has previously admitted. With journalists unable to operate freely in Syria it is not possible to verify claims by activists that 200 people have been killed by military shelling and sniping in the city during the last six days.

The official news agency Sana claimed troops were fighting terrorist saboteurs. "Syrian Arab army units are working to restore security, stability and normal life to Hama after armed terrorist groups perpetrated acts of sabotage and killing," Sana reported.

In YouTube footage purporting to come from protesters in Hama, heavy gunfire can be heard amid improvised road blocks in the street with a tank in the background. A voice says: "Hama, 5 August 2011, severe artillery shooting in Hama ... tanks incursion of Hama ... gangs of Bashar al-Assad are shooting Hama neighbourhoods." The date and name of the city are repeated.

As the attack on Hama continued, protests took place throughout the country.