08/01/2011, 00.00
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Government repression continues in Syria as 25 die today

Eyewitnesses speak of another attack against Hama and Deir ez-Zor. Turkey joins West to criticise Damascus, saying military operations will not bring a solution. Germany and Italy call for an urgent meeting of the United Nations Security Council.
Beirut (AsiaNews) – The Syrian government’s crackdown against demonstrators continues. A day after the Hama massacre, which apparently saw 142 people killed, al-Jazeera reports another attack this morning, against Hama and Deir ez-Zor, Syria’s main oil-producing centre in the northeastern corner of the country. An eyewitness said that 25 people were killed and more than 65 wounded by shelling.

The violent repression has elicited Western condemnation. Germany and Italy have called for an urgent meeting of the Security Council. European Union Foreign Policy Chief Catherine Ashton called the attack “totally unjustified”. French Foreign Minister said his country strongly condemned “the ongoing repression carried out by Syrian authorities”. US President Barak Obama stated he was “appalled” by what was happening in Syria, saying that the United States would “continue to increase our pressure on” Damascus in order “to isolate the Assad government and stand with the Syrian people”. For the US leader, “reports out of Hama are horrifying and demonstrate the true character of the Syrian regime”.

Turkey also joined the chorus of condemnations. Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu said his government “reiterates its call on the Syrian government to stop operations and use political means, dialogue and peaceful initiatives for a solution.” According to him, these operations would not lead to a solution.

In the Arab world, there is also some movement. Mustapha Bouchachi, president of the Algerian Human Rights Defence League (LADDH), criticised his own country’s authorities. ‘The position of the Algerian people is one of solidarity with the Syrian people,” he said.

Back in Syria, a source in Hama said, “128 bodies were buried in a garden near the al-Sarjawi Mosque and more behind the al-Hourani hospital”.

The military began laying siege to Hama (central Syria) on Sunday morning. A number of tanks entered the city from the northern part of the city, whilst troops in the southern part opened fire.

“Armed terrorist groups cut off main and side roads in Hama city and attempted to isolate and suffocate” in order “to terrorize citizens and prevent them to going to work,” Syria’s Interior Ministry said in a statement.

The same groups “attacked at dawn official and security facilities and police stations in the city of Hama in an attempt to murder and kidnap policemen and vandalize and burn their contents,” the SANA news agency reported quoting the Ministry. The latter urged “citizens to cooperate with security and police forces and provide information about the gunmen, warning against dealing with the armed terrorist groups”.

However, human rights organisations have described such claims about armed groups pure fiction. Many note instead that Syrian authorities have chosen to escalate ahead of Ramadan out of fear that people might take advantage of the evening prayers during holy month to protest against the government. In fact, the most important demonstrations have occurred after Friday prayers as people file out of mosques. During Ramadan, prayers are held in mosques on a daily basis. (PD)
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