Syrian forces sweep into Hama, arrest dozens


Syrian troops stormed houses in Hama on Monday as thousands of people took to the streets shouting “God is greatest”, in the city which saw huge protests last week against President Bashar al-Assad, residents said. They said some of the soldiers and police who swept into Hama on Monday opened fire in residential neighbourhoods and carried out arrests across the city. Hama, scene of a bloody crackdown by Assad’s father nearly 30 years ago, has witnessed some of the biggest demonstrations and worst violence of Syria’s 14-week uprising, inspired by revolts across the Arab world.
One month ago security forces shot dead at least 60 protesters in Hama, activists said. The security presence later eased and last Friday an emboldened crowd of at least 150,000 people rallied in a central Hama square demanding Assad go, according to activists. The next day Assad fired the provincial governor and on Monday residents said troops and police poured into Hama to carry out arrests.
“At least 30 buses carrying soldiers and security police entered Hama this morning. They are firing randomly in residential neighbourhoods,” one of the residents, a workshop owner who gave his name as Ahmad, said by telephone. He said he saw dozens of soldiers surround a house in the Mashaa neighbourhood and make arrests. Young men, some carrying stones, blocked roads leading to central neighbourhoods with burning tyres and garbage containers. “Forces are firing randomly at buildings,” said a doctor in the city, adding that seven casualties had been brought to the Horani hospital and other wounded residents were being treated in a clinic. Rami Abdelrahman, president of the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, told Reuters that 250 people were arrested in neighbourhoods across Hama.