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      Assad Tightens Grip on Hama

      Assad gunmen continue to tighten their grip on the focal protest city of Hama as the death toll in two days tops 100.
      By Gabe Kahn.
      First Publish: 8/2/2011, 8:27 PM

      Syrian troops loyal to President Bashar Assad tightened their grip on the focal protest city of Hama Tuesday, Reuters reports.

      After killing nearly 100 people in two days, Assad gunmen took up positions near homes and sent residents fleeing for their lives. 

      The escalation in the bloody crackdown on anti-government protests has already brought an international outcry and new European Union sanctions on members of President Bashar Assad's regime.
       
      On Tuesday, Italy recalled its ambassador to Damascus, citing "horrible repression" of citizens.
       
      US President Barack Obama called the latest violence "horrifying," but senior military sources at the Pentagon say there is no immediate prospect of a Libya-style military intervention.
       
      "There's no indication whatsoever that the Americans, that we would get involved directly with respect to this," Joint Chiefs chairman Adm. Mike Mullen said.
       
      Despite the intensified attacks on dissenters, the uprising that began in March appears to be only gaining momentum, even during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan that began Monday with daily dawn-to-dusk fasts.
       
      The most recent military operations appear aimed at preventing protests from swelling during Ramadan, when Muslims throng mosques for special nightly prayers after breaking their fast. The gatherings could easily turn into large protests.
       
      But the opposition appears unbowed so far. Protests erupted Monday evening across the country, with hundreds turning out in cities including Homs, Latakia, the Damascus suburbs and the eastern city of Dair Al Zour.
       
      Activists say around 24 people were killed Monday and 74 on Sunday, most of them in Hama. There were minor discrepancies in Monday's death tolls, ranging from 19 to 25. The differences could not immediately be reconciled.
       
      About 1,700 civilians have been killed since the largely peaceful protests against Assad's regime began, according to tallies by activists.