Assad escalates attacks on cities to quell dissent

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The Independent Online

Syrian troops besieged residential areas of two key cities yesterday, firing on residents as they fled for safety and killing at least two people during broad military assaults to root out dissent against President Bashar al-Assad.

Mr Assad has dramatically escalated the crackdown on a five-month-old uprising since the start of the holy month of Ramadan, when many Muslims fast from dawn to dusk.

The regime is trying to establish firm control in rebellious areas by unleashing tanks, snipers and – in a new tactic – gunships firing from the sea. The military assault in the port city of Latakia entered its third day yesterday after gunboats joined ground troops on Sunday for the first time in the uprising. Nearly 30 people have been killed in the city since Saturday, activists say.

As the gunships blasted waterfront districts on Sunday, ground troops and security forces stormed several neighbourhoods, sending women and children fleeing. The London-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said troops opened fire yesterday as a group of fleeing residents approached a checkpoint in the Ein Tamra district of Latakia. One person was shot dead and five were wounded, they said.

Soldiers also stormed the area of Hula in the central city of Homs, which has seen massive protests in recent months. A sniper killed an elderly man, said a representative from the Observatory, which has a network of activists on the ground in Syria. AP

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