Syrian President Bashar Assad has responded to more protests against him with more brutality Sunday, sending tanks into the northern city of Hama where at least 45 were killed and dozens injured one day before the beginning of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan. In some areas, soldiers mutinied and welcomed protesters on their tanks.
Soldiers received orders "to shoot them in the head," and many of those killed were women and children. Tanks shot artillery shells at the rate of four every minute, eyewitnesses told Arab news agencies, and many areas are without electricity and water. One doctor said tanks have surrounded a hospital, where there is a shortage of blood.
The Syrian government news agency SANA continues to tell its citizen that “armed groups instigated clashes in the city of Deir al-Zour after having allegedly ”stole some weapons and ammunitions” and then cutting utility services.
Hama is the same city where Assad’s father, Hafez al-Assad, killed 30,000 civilians in a 1982 uprising that he crushed.
The death toll in the four-month Arab Spring demonstrations in Syria has passed 1,700 and is likely higher. One human rights group reported that nearly 3,000 people have “disappeared” and that more than 12,000 are being held in custody, many of them having been tortured.
Protesters have warned they will escalate their demonstrations during the month of Ramadan, which begins Sunday night, despite the continuing attempts by Assad to crush the protest movement with brute force.
Meanwhile, Syrian soldiers shot at refugees fleeing into Lebanon, according to Lebanese sources.