In a violent crackdown on anti-government protesters across the country, Syrian forces have fired on civilians with everything from tanks to rifles in one of the bloodiest days since protests began there this spring.
The BBC reports that tanks rolled into the city of Hama at dawn and commenced shelling civilians. Syrian authorities said that the army had been sent to remove barricades set by civilians, but clashes seemed to suggest an agenda that included taking control of the city’s main square, where protesters in recent months have gathered — a goal that Syrian forces failed to accomplish by Sunday evening.
President Obama responded to the attacks, delivering a statement run by the BBC:
"Once again, President [Bashar al-Assad] has shown that he is completely incapable and unwilling to respond to the legitimate grievances of the Syrian people."
In other cities as many as 30 people were reportedly killed in clashes with government forces, though confirmed numbers were difficult to determine.
In June security forces largely left Hama, which has been a center of conflict between anti-government protesters and the army and in 1982 was the location of battles in which government forces killed nearly 10,000 people. Many were unsure of the army’s reasons for withdrawing in June and suspected they would be back to contest control of the city.
Omar Idlibi, speaking on behalf of protest organizing group Local Coordination Committee, told the New York Times:
“Today we are witnessing a major assault. It is a last-minute attempt by the regime to reclaim cities that it lost control of.”