Syrian Activists Report Intense Gunfire in Hama

By: Robert Mackey

Amid reports of escalating violence in Syria, three days before a cease-fire plan calls for the Syrian military to withdraw from cities and towns, bloggers in the city of Hama posted audio and video online that appeared to document an intense gun battle on Friday night.

A resident of central Hama who writes on Twitter as Free Syrian reported around 10 p.m. local time: “Gunfire getting closer and louder. Sounds like a war zone. A real war in happening in this city.” A short time later, he added: “Insane in Hama. Massive, extreme, crazy, I don’t know the word, gunfire all over the place.”

Hearing shouts of “Allahu Akbar,” the Arabic for “God is great,” mixed in with exchanges of gunfire, the blogger concluded that the rebel Free Syrian Army was “carrying out a massive operation in Hama.” The blogger also posted an audio recording of the sounds of battle on Soundcloud.

Rami Jarrah, a Syrian activist now working from Cairo, drew attention to what he said was an assault by government forces in several parts of the city.

Alexander Page @AlexanderPageSY:

BREAKING: I’m being told that a widespread assault is now taking place in the #Hama city #Syria

Mr. Jarrah added that four districts — Tareeq Halab, Janoub Malaab, al-Khadir, al-Mahatta — were “all witnessing assaults from regime forces.”

Activists who maintain the Ugarit News Facebook feed posted a link to a brief video clip that captured “the sounds of the clashes between the Free Syrian Army and the regime army in Tariq Halab area.”

Another clip, apparently recorded during the battle, was uploaded to the Hama2Free YouTube channel.

Earlier on Friday, video was uploaded to the same channel showing an evening protest that was interrupted by the sound of gunfire.

According to new satellite images posted on the Facebook page of the United States Embassy in Damascus, the Syrian government has not yet honored its commitment to withdraw heavy weapons from cities and towns across the country ahead of Tuesday’s cease-fire. Ambassador Robert Ford wrote that the images, taken on Thursday, show that “there are some locales where the Syrian government did remove some forces, such as Da’el in Dara’a province and Taftanaz in Idlib, following several days of assaults against the towns.” Even so, some weapons remain in both towns and “In the case of Taftanaz, the Syrian government simply moved some armored vehicles out of Taftanaz to the nearby town of Zirdana.”

The ambassador noted that other satellite images show that in the cities of Homs and Zabadani, “the Syrian government kept artillery units near residential areas where they could again fire upon them.”

According to activists, video posted online on Friday showed tanks in Zabadani, a city that had slipped from the control of the Syrian government until a recent assault.

Mr. Ford’s note concluded with an appeal to the Syrian government to honor its commitments under the peace plan brokered by Kofi Annan, the United Nations envoy, and to allow for independent monitoring of the situation on the ground. He wrote:

International journalists are unable to legally enter the country to independently verify such reports. If the Assad regime is keeping its promises based on the Annan proposal, it should allow international journalists to freely enter the country to verify. In their absence, U.S. and other governments have other means, including the satellites that took these images, of verifying the regime’s compliance or lack thereof. The regime and the Syrian people should know that we are watching.

Source: New York Times

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