Syria assault on Hama signals hardened resolve on both sides
Syrian President Bashar al-Assad claimed victory over "warmongers" after his forces killed 100 in Hama. But the violence could incite daily protests during Ramadan, which begins today.
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YouTube footage of Hama violence, casualties
Videos have surfaced on YouTube showing the Syrian regime’s crackdown on Hama this weekend. One video showed a view across the city with smoke in the distance and the sound of tanks grinding along a street. Every few seconds came the sound of an explosion, probably from a tank shell.
Also clearly audible are distant chants of “Allahu Akhbar” (God is great), coming from rooftops and also from the loudspeakers attached to the minarets of mosques. Another video shows men hurriedly carrying a body across a street as explosions and machine gun fire reverberate nearby.
“Martyr, martyr,” says the breathless voice of the man with the camera.
Another piece of footage showed the chaotic scenes in a hospital in Hama with surgeons operating on the wounded. A narrator in the background said that several bodies lying beneath white sheets were the victims of shooting and tank fire; in other footage, the wounds of the dead appeared to have been incurred by exploding shells rather than rifle bullets.
Assad blamed the violence on “seditionists” and praised the steadfastness and loyalty of the army.
“Syria is used to creating victories and defeating the enemies… it knows how to do it to add new victories and leave warmongers and blood merchants to taste the bitterness of defeat and disappointment,” he said in a speech marking Army Day in Syria.
Rami Nakhle, a Syrian opposition activist in Beirut, says protesters had been uncertain about what Assad's strategy would be during Ramadan – but no longer. “Now we know. What they are doing in Hama is a clear message: they really are going to fight to keep their seats of power. Bashar is willing to destroy Syria to keep his position.”
International condemnation, but little action
The assault drew international condemnation and renewed efforts to hold a United Nations Security Council meeting to discuss the worsening violence in Syria. But there is little appetite around the globe to engage in another armed intervention similar to that of Libya.
“In Libya, we’re carrying out an operation based on a clear UN mandate. We have the support of countries in the region. These two conditions are not met in Syria,” Anders Fogh Rasmussen, the head of NATO, was quoted as saying in Monday’s edition of France’s Midi Libre.
William Hague, the British foreign minister, also said that military action was not even “a remote possibility.” Instead, he said that the European Union would issue a second round of sanctions against Syria in the coming week and that London was still pressing for an urgent session of the UN Security Council.
“It is a very frustrating situation – the levers that we have in this situation are relatively limited, but we should be frank in admitting that and working with the ones that we have,” Hague said.