U.S. Ambassador to Syria Robert Ford condemned the Syrian military crackdown against a civilian uprising in the city of Hama, calling the violence there “grotesque” and “abhorrent.” As international condemnation grows, he said the United States would “try to ratchet up the pressure” on Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, including through new sanctions.
“The violence that the Syrian government is inflicting on Syrian protesters, from our point of view, is grotesque. It’s abhorrent,” Ford told “This Week” anchor Christiane Amanpour in a U.S. exclusive. “So we are looking at additional unilateral measures, but also measures that we can work with partners to get the Syrian government to stop shooting protesters, to release political prisoners and to stop these arrest campaigns.”
More than 200 civilians have reportedly been killed in Hama, a city of 700,000 in central Syria, since the army launched its latest crackdown this week, the beginning of the holy month of Ramadan. Telecommunications, electricity and water supply have been cut for the past 48 hours and there are reports of shortages in food as well as medical equipment. As army tanks took over the city’s central square on Wednesday, the United Nations Security Council condemned the violence and called for restraint.
“What the government is doing now is, it’s literally going house to house and it’s rounding up people,” Ford said. “There is no due process. There’s a lot of violence. There’s shooting…. It’s frightful. It’s abominable.”
The city of Hama is known as the site of a brutal crackdown in 1982, when Syrian security forces killed at least 20,000 civilians to crush a rebellion there. Ford traveled to Hama in July to show support for growing demonstrations there against the Syrian regime; he was greeted warmly with some supporters throwing flowers at his vehicle.
Ford expressed concern that a similar crackdown to the one in 1982 could happen today, saying that the Syrian government has rounded up individuals who met with him in July.
“I mean literally dozens of people have been killed in the last week,” Ford said. “I’m personally very nervous about the fate of some of the people I met. I fear that they’re either now under arrest or may be dead.”
“That’s the kind of repression that we’re talking about,” he added. “It’s important to bear witness, and it’s important to relay a message of support.”
ABC News’ Rym Momtaz and Alexander Marquardt contributed to this report.
Ford spoke with Amanpour today in Washington, D.C., before his planned return to Syria. For more on Ford’s views on the violence in Syria and how the U.S. will respond, watch “This Week with Christiane Amanpour” on Sunday.