The unfortunate people of Syria are suffering more than normal as government tanks poured into the city of Hama yesterday, leaving at least 95 dead in that city alone with the toll expected to rise as Gulf News went to press last night. What made the crackdown seem worse was that the government forces chose to mount this brutal assault a day before Ramadan, after having besieged the city for nearly a month. And it was not limited to Hama, as the army launched similar assaults all over Syria, as in Deir Ezzor where tanks killed at least 19 people.
Many in Hama remember the complete razing of the city centre and shocking massacre of more than 10,000 Islamist activists in 1982, and hope that the present crackdown is not a precursor to similar action. Yesterday, the security forces were trying to stop some of the biggest demonstrations against the continued rule of President Bashar Al Assad, who had tens of thousands of protesters on the streets of Hama over the weekend.
The savage crackdown comes as the government-sponsored National Dialogue was supposed to start today. The opposition has condemned the dialogue process as useless, since its remit is limited to what the government wants. Many opposition leaders have decided that the only purpose of the supposed dialogue is to legitimise the government, and they have avoided what they call a false process.
The Syrian army's timing yesterday was deliberate. Across the Islamic world, Muslims were preparing for the start of Ramadan, and focusing on their spiritual well-being. But the Syrian army grabbed this opportunity to seek a military solution to the continuing civil unrest in the country. Such military action is wrong, and killing people will not end the political impasse in Syria.