Syrian ‘warships shell port city of Latakia’

At least 21 people said to be killed as northern city is reportedly attacked by
warships and tanks.

At least 21 people have been killed and others injured after Syrian warships
and tanks opened fire on the port city of Latakia in two residential districts,
activists said.

Sunday’s deaths were reported as a military assault on Latakia extended into
a second day.

On Saturday, at least five people were killed and several others injured as
at least 20 tanks and armoured personnel carriers rolled into the city.

Al Jazeera’s Nisreen el-Shamayleh, reporting from the Jordan-Syria border on
Sunday, said: “We understand from the activists and the Local Co-ordination
Committee (LCC) that the Syrian tanks and the boats that are mounted with
machine guns have halted opening fire and shelling neighbourhoods right now.

“However, there is a curfew that has been imposed on Latakia and the surrounding
neighbourhoods.” Earlier, a resident of the city told Reuters news agency: “I can see the
silhouettes of two grey vessels. They are firing their guns and the impact is
landing on al-Ramel al-Filistini and al-Shaab neighbourhoods.”

“This is the most intense attack on Latakia since the uprising [began].
Anyone who sticks his head out of the window risks being shot. They want to
finish off the demonstrations for good,” he said.

Around the capital, Damascus, “security forces entered Saqba and Hamriya in
great numbers and launched a campaign of arrests,” according to the UK-based
Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

‘Violence must end’

Canada said on Saturday that it had expanded sanctions on Syria to protest
against the government’s brutal crackdown on demonstrations.

The new sanctions include travel bans on four officials and freezing the
assets of the state-run Commercial Bank of Syria, and Syriatel, the country’s
largest mobile phone company.

The US imposed sanctions on the two firms earlier in the week, and has joined
European allies in sanctioning top officials close to President Bashar

Canada’s sanctions came after US President Barack Obama spoke with the
leaders of Saudi Arabia and the UK and all three called for an immediate end to
the Syrian government’s crackdown on protests.

Obama and Saudi King Abdullah “expressed their shared, deep concerns about
the Syrian government’s use of violence against its citizens,” the White House
said in a statement.

“They agreed that the Syrian regime’s brutal campaign of violence against the
Syrian people must end immediately, and to continue close consultations about
the situation in the days ahead.”

Similar language was used in a statement after a separate Obama conversation
with British Prime Minister David Cameron.

“Bashar al-Assad doesn’t seem to be listening at all,” El-Shamayleh said.

“He is not listening to some of his friends, let alone the United States,
Canada and European countries.”

Friday rallies

Tens of thousands of people rallied in cities across the country on Friday in
protest against the government and at least 17 people were reported killed.

The protests have grown dramatically over the past five months, driven in
part by anger over the government’s bloody crackdown in which rights groups say
at least 2,000 civilians have been killed across the country.

The government has justified its crackdown by saying it is dealing with
terrorist gangs and criminals who are fomenting unrest.

A Latakia resident speaking to Al Jazeera on Saturday rejected the
government’s claims.

“There are no armed gangs here,” he said. “We have been demonstrating
peacefully for the last three months.”

He said the army and security personnel together with regime thugs were
shelling residential neighbourhoods.

Syrian authorities have expelled most independent journalists since the
five-month-old uprising against Assad began, making it difficult to verify
reports from both sides.

( / 14.08.2011)

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