Scores have been killed as Syrian military forces stormed the opposition stronghold of Hama on Sunday.
According to Reuters news agency, at least 80 people have been killed in the Hama assault, which some witnesses have already called a ‘massacre’.
Al Jazeera television has quoted Syria’s National Organisation for Human Rights as saying that 136 people have been killed in Hama and three other cities on Sunday as the government escalates its crackdown on protesters.
However, there are conflicting reports on the exact number of those killed.
According to witnesses, tank shells slammed into Hama streets just before dawn on Sunday, killing and wounding many. Human rights observers are predicting that the death toll is set to rise, AP news agency reports.
According to AP, Hama residents met tanks with firebombs, stones and sticks. Witnesses said that hospitals are overwhelmed with casualties and are seeking blood donations.
The Hama attack comes as part of the government’s crackdown on protesters, who are urging President Bashar al-Assad to step down before the holy month of Ramadan starts in Syria on Monday.
Al Jazeera quoted Syria-based rights activist Mustafa Osso as saying that some 4,000 people have been arrested in raids against the opposition in the past week.
An estimated 1,600 civilians have reportedly been killed in the crackdown on demonstrators since the rallies against Assad’s regime started in March. The demonstrators are demanding that Basher al-Assad step down from his post.
“Unless there is change, the bloodshed will continue”
Sabah Al-Mukhtar, the president of the Arab Lawyers Association, believes the unrest in Syria will continue as the regime of President Bashar Assad does not seem to believe that it can change.
“It talks about change, but it’s not doing it,” he says, “Unless there is this change, the bloodshed will continue.”
The required changes do not seem to be acceptable to date, he observes, saying that there must be actual change of personnel in the higher echelons of Syria, in the army, in the party, in the government.
Al-Mukhtar also thinks that the Syrian government cannot stop the use of force as it believes that it can stop the revolution.
“But in fact it is just fueling it more and more,” he explains.
He also stresses that interference from the outside world is likely to be counter-productive unless it is directed properly, and goes on to question whether the United States has the right to doubt the legitimacy of the Syrian president.
Al-Mukhtar points out that the US seems to interfere selectively, choosing to get involved in Syria and Libya, while appearing reluctant to do so in Yemen, Bahrain and other countries engulfed by unrest. However, the West and the international community can assist the Syrian regime with an exit policy, which would require practical steps rather than just statements and changing of laws.
Al-Mukhtar believes the Syrian people may be satisfied if the regime reduces the use of force and removes some military figures and government officials.
“But the regime does not seem to be doing that. And the West and the world seem to be content with condemning and making these wild, crazy statements whether the regime is legitimate or not,” he concludes.