The Syrian navy joined in the bloody onslaught against Syrian civilians for the first time on Sunday, bombarding the port city of Latakia in a sign that Syrian President Bashar Assad is cracking down against protesters with increasing impunity. Twenty-three people were killed in the attack, and three civilians were killed by security forces in other parts of the country.
The uprising in Syria began in March. In addition to calls for Assad to step down, demonstrators throughout the country are demanding a multi-party political system, an end to illegal killings and torture, equal rights for ethnic and religious groups, and freedom of press, speech and assembly.
Over the past few months, several large demonstrations have occurred in Latakia, especially in its southern neighborhood of El Ramel. Opposition and human rights groups said that at dawn on Sunday, Syrian warships opened fire on civilians in Latakia and a nearby refugee camp. At the same time, tank and infantry units entered the southern part of the city, indiscriminately firing upon civilians.
Snipers perched on rooftops shot at civilians with no apparent reason, and a thick cloud of smoke rose above the city. In addition to the 23 killed, dozens more were injured. Many residents of Latakia, including children and elderly people, fled the city in panic. A witness who was in his home when the brutal attack began said, “The shooting was nonstop. Many homes were destroyed. Tanks roamed the streets, destroying shops and businesses. We were trapped in our homes and couldn't get out.”
In addition to the deadly Latakia assault, security forces and the Syrian military stormed other areas of the country as well on Sunday, including a Damascus suburb and the southern Dara district. Several civilians were arrested and three additional people were reported killed.
The BBC reported on Sunday that Syrian forces had invaded and shut down two hospitals in the north-western city of Hama. A senior doctor at one of the hospitals reportedly said that more than 1,000 people had died since the beginning of the assault on Hama. According to the doctor, Syrian forces put weapons next to the bodies of some of those of who were killed and then photographed them to “prove” they were actually armed thugs.