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Tuesday, 23 August, 2011, 3:37 ( 1:37 GMT )
Syrian Protesters Killed as Troops Use Heavy Weapons in Clampdown
15/08/2011 16:55:00
A day after activists said gunboats joined an assault that killed as many as 26 people in Latakia city, the first attack from the sea since Syria's anti-regime revolt erupted on March 15, on Monday, Syrian troops backed by tanks clamped down on the province of Homs, carrying out raids and arrests under the cover of heavy gunfire.

As the uprising which has spread across Syria turned five months old on Monday, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said that in the morning, a large number of tanks entered Hula this morning.

"Security agents encircled all the entrances to Hula and they started shooting to terrify local residents. Then the army went in to make raids and arrests," the Observatory said, adding that pro-regime militiamen and security agents were deployed on all roads and in villages around Hula to erase anti-government graffiti from the walls.

Meanwhile, state news agency SANA announced on Monday that President Bashar al-Assad has appointed a new governor for Aleppo province in northern Syria. It followed the naming of new governors for Homs and Hama in the centre of the country as well as for Daraa in the south, scene of the first major bloodshed of the uprising.

SANA also ran a denial that the navy had attacked Latakia, quoting its correspondent in the city as saying that security forces had battled gunmen. Instead he said that law enforcement members had pursued armed men who were using machine guns, grenades and bombs in Ramel from rooftops and from behind barricades.

Activists said four more people were killed elsewhere on Sunday, with the Syrian Observatory saying that at least 23 people died and dozens more were wounded in Latakia; the National Organisation for Human Rights in Syria (NOHRS) put the death toll at 26.

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory said the vessels opened up with heavy machine guns., while NOHRS said in a statement, that in unprecedented action... the Syrian regime used navy boats to shell innocent civilians in the province of Latakia.

It also provided a list of 26 victims - including two Palestinian men from the Ramel refugee camp in southern Latakia - and said one more person was killed in Homs and another in Idlib, northwest Syria.

A spokesperson for the UN refugee agency UNRWA, Chris Gunness, said reports from the Ramel camp spoke of "fire from tanks that have encircled the area as well as fire from ships at sea".

He called on the Syrian authorities "to order their troops to exercise maximum restraint", and demanded "access for humanitarian workers to tend to the injured and dying".

The head of medical services in Latakia was quoted as saying by AFP, that two members of the security forces were killed and 41 others wounded "while chasing armed men".

Rights activists say that the violence in Syria has so far killed around 2,200 people, including about 400 members of the security forces, with Syrian authorities on the other hand blaming the bloodshed on armed gangs and Islamist militants.

The UN Security Council is due to hold a special meeting on Thursday to discuss human rights and the humanitarian emergency in Syria.
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