Dubai: Syrians Sunday witnessed the bloodiest day in their 139-day uprising against the single-party regime with more than 150 killed and at least 1,000 injured.
Witnesses said a full-scale military attack against Hama was launched at 6am with tanks entering the besieged city from four sides firing rockets on the civilian buildings and shooting at any moving object.
Reports from Hama talked about scores of bodies littering the streets. Security forces were firing randomly in every direction. Opposition and sources from the Coordination Committee of Syrian Peaceful Revolution said that more than 130 people were killed in the first hours of the attack and it feared that injured people given first-aid at Al Horani Hospital were not safe as security forces stormed the hospital.
"It is the second military attack by Al Assad regime in 30 years and the third since Baath Party took charge of Syria in 1963. The city will not bow or surrender. It will continue its peaceful uprising against the brutal regime," said the London-based Ziad Al Sayed, member of the National Council of Damascus Declaration — a think tank and opposition group formed in 2005 to call for reforms in Syria.
"Funeral prayers were conducted for 80 martyrs of Al Sirjawi Mosque in the afternoon, less than 10 hours after the attack was launched. You can see blood everywhere in the city. The people of Hama have lost more than 30,000 people in the 1982 attack. We thought that the regime has learnt from its mistakes, but obviously this morning's attack suggests otherwise," Omar Al Hamwi of the Coordination Committee said.
He said the regime seems to be in a race against the clock to end the uprising in restive cities. "The regime is committing a deadly mistake by killing its own people. I can see the end of Bashar Al Assad rule in Ramadan. We will continue our peaceful uprising against the tyranny and dictatorship and we will win at the end," he stressed.
At least 42 people were also injured yesterday when Syrian forces threw nail bombs at a demonstration in the Damascus suburb of Harasta, where the army's Fourth Division had deployed to subdue protests, two residents said.
Syrian forces have arrested Shaikh Nawaf Al Bashir, head of the main Baqqara tribe in Deir Al Zor province and a prominent figure in the campaign against Al Assad, opposition sources told Reuters.
US President Barack Obama said he was "appalled" by Syria's crackdown on Sunday and vowed to step up pressure to isolate President Bashar Al Assad.
In a statement, Obama saluted demonstrators who have taken to the streets as "courageous" and said Syria "will be a better place when a democratic transition goes forward".
"I am appalled by the Syrian government's use of violence and brutality against its own people. The reports out of Hama are horrifying and demonstrate the true character of the Syrian regime," Obama said.
European countries also issued strong statements.
Britain: British Foreign Secretary William Hague called on Syrian President Bashar Al Assad to stop the deadly assault on protesters in Hama, saying he was “appalled” at the attacks on the eve of Ramadan. “I am appalled by the reports that the Syrian security forces have stormed Hama with tanks and other heavy weapons this morning, killing dozens of people,” Hague said.
France: “France condemns with the most extreme firmness the continued repression by the Syrian authorities, which is getting worse,” the foreign ministry said. “Syrian political, military and security leaders must know, now more than ever, that they will have to answer for their deeds,” the ministry added.
Germany: “I am deeply shocked by what we are currently seeing in Syria,” German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle said. “If President Al Assad fails to change course, we and our partners in the EU will impose new sanctions,” he said.
Italy: “This is the latest horrible act of violent repression against protesters who have been rallying in a peaceful manner for days,” Foreign Minister Franco Frattini was quoted as saying by Italian news agency Ansa.
— With inputs from agencies