| 02.08,11. 06:47 AM |
Seven Dead in Syria as Army Shells Several Hama Neighborhoods
The Syrian army pressed on Monday with a deadly crackdown on anti-regime dissent, even as international condemnation swelled ahead of a U.N. meeting on the crisis.
The Local Coordination Committees reported Monday evening that the army was firing tank shells and machinegun rounds at several neighborhoods in the flashpoint protest city of Hama. One person was killed in the shelling, the committees said.
Meanwhile, an activist in Hama told Agence France Presse by telephone that army tanks were "indiscriminately" shelling a residential area on the outskirts of Hama late on Monday.
"Ten tanks are shelling Dawar Bilal indiscriminately," said the activist as booms of explosions were heard in the background, AFP reported.
The head of the Syrian League for the Defense of Human Rights, Abdul Karim Rihawi, told AFP that "intense shooting" was heard across Hama late on Monday, the first night of the Muslim dawn-to-dusk fasting month of Ramadan.
The official SANA news agency said troops were locked in clashes with "saboteurs" in Hama, where activists said 100 people were killed in an army assault on Sunday.
"The army is pursuing its mission in Hama and is removing barricades erected by groups of saboteurs at the entrances of the city," SANA said quoting a military official.
"Right now there are widespread clashes because these groups are well organized and use sophisticated weapons and have planted mines along main streets" in the city, SANA added.
Sunday's crackdown on Hama came on the eve of the start of Ramadan, when observant Muslims break their daily fast by holding an "iftar" meal at dusk.
Earlier in the day, at least four civilians were killed in Hama during search operations, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said, while a 13-year-old boy and another person were also shot dead in the eastern town of al-Bukamal.
The group said tanks rumbled Monday into al-Bukamal, on the border with Iraq, some two weeks after troops surrounded the town which the official media said was used as a passage point to smuggle in weapons and money.
Reinforcements were also dispatched further north to Deir Ezzor, another rallying point of anti-regime protests where troops deployed on Saturday.
"More than 80 tanks are heading there, in what appears to be the prelude to a vast military operation," said Rami Abdul Rahman, head of the Observatory, quoting residents in Deir Ezzor, Syria's oil hub.
Troops backed by tanks also stormed the town of al-Hulla, northwest of Syria's third city Homs, where residents reported heavy gunfire and said 15 people were wounded and 18 arrested, according to the Observatory.
Syrian forces on Sunday killed around 140 people across the country, including more than 100 in the flashpoint city of Hama, scene of an Islamist revolt in 1982 that was crushed at the cost of an estimated 20,000 lives.
Abdul Rahman called Sunday "one of the deadliest days" since the pro-democracy protests broke out in mid-March.
But the interior ministry said only eight people were killed in Hama and blamed the bloodshed on "armed terrorist groups."
Sunday's crackdown on Hama came on the eve of the start of the holy Muslim fasting month of Ramadan.
At least 1,583 civilians and 369 members of the army and security forces have been killed since mid-March in Syria, according to the Observatory.