At least 124 people were killed on Sunday when Syrian troops intensified their crackdown on pro-democracy protesters across the country, activists said on Sunday.
At least 97 people were killed when Syrian forces stormed the central city of Hama at dawn, shelling different neighborhoods. Omar Idlibi, a Syrian activist based in Lebanon, told the German Deutsche Presse-Agentur (DPA) news agency that electricity and water supplies to the main areas were cut before the attack began.
“The harsh crackdown is a means of telling protesters even if Ramadan starts we will keep killing you if you go out to the streets,” Idlibi told DPA. “But we tell them we will continue and won’t stop no matter what means you use on us.”
Troops also surrounded one of the major hospitals to prevent the almost 100 people who were injured in the attacks from reaching it. Activists said that four buses filled with security forces personnel arrived at the southern entrance of Hama, located around 200 kilometers (124 miles) north of Damascus, reports said.
The city of Hama was also the site of a deadly government crackdown in 1982 when up to 20,000 people were killed after the Sunni population attempted to revolt against then president Hafez al-Assad’s minority Alawite sect.
Several people, including a 3-year-old girl, were also reportedly killed on Sunday in the southern town of Harak in Daraa province after security forces stormed the town. An activist said that tanks surrounded Harak and all roads are blocked, telling DPA: “I just want to address the Arab world and tell them their silence is killing the Syrian people, this regime has no mercy.”
The London-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights group said at least six people were killed and 50 others injured in the eastern city of Deir el-Zour, according to DPA.
In a statement, UK Foreign Secretary William Hague said he is appalled by the latest government crackdown. “Such action against civilians who have been protesting peacefully in large numbers in the city for a number of weeks has no justification. The attack appears to be part of a coordinated effort across a number of towns in Syria to deter the Syrian people from protesting in advance of Ramadan,” Hague said. “The attacks are all the more shocking on the eve of the Muslim holy month. President Bashar is mistaken if he believes that oppression and military force will end the crisis in his country. He should stop this assault on his own people now.”
Australian Foreign Affairs Minister Kevin Rudd also condemned the crackdown. “This brutality is abhorrent, and the deaths of protesters utterly unacceptable. With the holy month Ramadan to start this week, now is the time for the security forces put aside their arms,” Rudd said. “The government in Damascus should respect the basic rights of the Syrian people.”
Rudd reiterated the Australian Government’s call for the United Nations Security Council to condemn the violence, increase pressure on President Assad and refer the situation to the International Criminal Court (ICC). Australia has previously also urged that the media and international NGOs be allowed full access to provide an accurate assessment of the situation..
Human rights groups have said that more than 1,500 people have died since the government crackdown on protesters began in mid-March and tens of thousands have been arrested. Global campaign group Avaaz said this week that almost 3,000 people have been forcibly disappeared.
In mid-March, pro-democracy demonstrations began in Syria and have continued across the country, which has been ruled by the Baath Party since 1963. Protesters are demanding the ouster of President Bashar al-Assad, who took over from his father in 2000.
Assad previously said that the recent events in the country are a conspiracy against national unity. The Syrian government has repeatedly claimed that the violent acts have been instigated by terrorists who use military uniforms and weaponry to pose as soldiers while attacking citizens.