Arab League condemns Syria after 50 killed

Syrian forces killed more than 50 people yesterday as they launched full-scale military assaults on two towns that had seen major protests in opposition to the Assad family's four-decade rule.

The relentless crackdown was swiftly followed by a message of condemnation from the Arab League, its first significant criticism of the Syrian regime's ruthless suppression of nearly five months of anti-government protests.

The military offensives came a week after President Bashar al-Assad sent his forces into Hama to retake the city that has emerged as a symbol of defiance in Syria's uprising. Scores were killed in the days-long operation, provoking global outrage.

At dawn, some 200 tanks rolled into the eastern city of Deir al-Zour, which has been under siege for days. Tanks shelled buildings, while snipers positioned on rooftops picked off "anything that moves," according to the Local Coordination Committee, which has organised many of the protests. More than 40 people were killed, activists claimed.

"Human conditions in the city are very bad since it has been under siege for nine days," an activist in Deir al-Zour told the Associated Press.

"There is lack of medicine, baby formula, food stuff and gasoline. The city is totally paralysed."

Syrian forces yesterday also attacked Houleh, a town in central Syria that had also seen large protests, killing at least 10. The government has used the holy month of Ramadan to subdue towns that have dared to defy Mr Assad's rule, fearful that dissenters could use daily prayers to ramp up the protests calling for wide-ranging political reform.

Residents of Deir al-Zour had expected the regime to retaliate, and had met to discuss the possibility of putting up armed resistance. Their fears of an attack were heightened after the crackdown in Hama last Sunday that left nearly 100 dead by some estimates.

Footage aired by state television this weekend showed a shattered city, its buildings ravaged and its deserted streets strewn with debris. Hama, the scene of an uprising brutally crushed in 1982, remains under siege, starved of electricity and outside communications, and a London-based Syrian human rights body said yesterday that eight newborn babies died in their incubators after the power supply was cut.

Mr Assad defended the crackdown, saying that Syria had embarked on a path of reform, and that its actions were aimed at safeguarding its citizens against "outlaws". "To deal with outlaws who cut off roads, seal towns and terrorise residents is a duty of the state which must defend security and protect the lives of civilians," he said.

Hours earlier, the international community had issued fresh appeals to Mr Assad to stop the violence. Human rights bodies say Syrian forces have killed more than 1,600 civilians since March.

Last night Saudi Arabia recalled its ambassador in Damascus and King Abdullah issued a statement demanding an end to Syria's "death machine".

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Sport
England's women celebrate after their 3rd place play-off win against Germany
Women's World CupFara Williams converts penalty to secure victory and bronze medals
Arts and Entertainment
Ricardo by Edward Sutcliffe, 2014
artPortraits of LA cricketers from notorious suburb go on display
News
newsHillary Clinton comments on viral Humans of New York photo of gay teenager
Arts and Entertainment
The gang rape scene in the Royal Opera’s production of Gioachino Rossini’s Guillaume Tell has caused huge controversy
music
News
ebooksNow available in paperback
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Sales Administrator - Spanish Speaking

£17000 - £21000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Administrator - German Speaking

£17000 - £23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Administrator - Japanese Speaking

£17000 - £23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: If you are fluent in Japanese a...

Recruitment Genius: Graphic Designer - Immediate Start

£16000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...

Day In a Page

The Greek referendum exposes a gaping hole at the heart of the European Union – its distinct lack of any genuine popular legitimacy

Gaping hole at the heart of the European Union

Treatment of Greece has shown up a lack of genuine legitimacy
Number of young homeless in Britain 'more than three times the official figures'

'Everything changed when I went to the hostel'

Number of young homeless people in Britain is 'more than three times the official figures'
Compton Cricket Club

Compton Cricket Club

Portraits of LA cricketers from notorious suburb to be displayed in London
London now the global money-laundering centre for the drug trade, says crime expert

Wlecome to London, drug money-laundering centre for the world

'Mexico is its heart and London is its head'
The Buddhist temple minutes from Centre Court that helps a winner keep on winning

The Buddhist temple minutes from Centre Court

It helps a winner keep on winning
Is this the future of flying: battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks?

Is this the future of flying?

Battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks
Isis are barbarians – but the Caliphate is a dream at the heart of all Muslim traditions

Isis are barbarians

but the Caliphate is an ancient Muslim ideal
The Brink's-Mat curse strikes again: three tons of stolen gold that brought only grief

Curse of Brink's Mat strikes again

Death of John 'Goldfinger' Palmer the latest killing related to 1983 heist
Greece debt crisis: 'The ministers talk to us about miracles' – why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum

'The ministers talk to us about miracles'

Why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum
Call of the wild: How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate

Call of the wild

How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate
Greece debt crisis: What happened to democracy when it’s a case of 'Vote Yes or else'?

'The economic collapse has happened. What is at risk now is democracy...'

If it doesn’t work in Europe, how is it supposed to work in India or the Middle East, asks Robert Fisk
The science of swearing: What lies behind the use of four-letter words?

The science of swearing

What lies behind the use of four-letter words?
The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won't have him back

The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won’t have him back
Africa on the menu: Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the continent

Africa on the menu

Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the hot new continent
Donna Karan is stepping down after 30 years - so who will fill the DKNY creator's boots?

Who will fill Donna Karan's boots?

The designer is stepping down as Chief Designer of DKNY after 30 years. Alexander Fury looks back at the career of 'America's Chanel'