52 Dead, Including 39 in Homs, as Syrian Forces Storm Hama

Syrian security forces killed 52 people across the country on Tuesday as troops stormed Hama following large protests in the flashpoint central city, activists said.

"The Syrian armed forces stormed the neighborhoods of Bab Qubli and al-Jarajmah in Hama, firing heavy machineguns," the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.

Activists in the city said that troops had gone on the offensive after large demonstrations earlier in the day.

"Since the morning, entrances to Hama have been blocked ... Syrian troops stormed the city from its northern and western entrances," Saleh al-Hamwi, spokesman of the General Revolution Commission, told Agence France Presse by telephone.

Anwar Amran, another anti-regime activist in Hama, said tanks had entered the city and there had been "heavy machinegun fire" in three different neighborhoods.

Meanwhile, the Local Coordination Committees, the main activist group spurring protests on the ground, said security forces killed 52 people across the country, "including 18 who died when shelling destroyed two buildings in the Homs neighborhood of Bab Tadmur."

Thirty-nine people were killed in the central opposition bastion Homs, five in Hama province, three in the southern province of Daraa, the cradle of the uprising, two in the flashpoint northwestern province of Idlib, two in Damascus province and one in the northern province of al-Raqqa, the LCC said.

For its part, the London-based Observatory said two civilians were killed in Hama province and one in Homs, Syria's third-largest city.

"A civilian was killed by gunfire from a checkpoint ... in the Bab al-Sibaa neighborhood of Homs," one of the focal points of protests against President Bashar al-Assad's regime that erupted in March last year, it said.

Another two civilians died in Hama province when security forces fired on the car they were traveling in near the Tibah al-Imam locality, the Observatory added.

Separately, Syrian security forces reportedly opened fire in Idlib province in an attempt to disperse some 10,000 people gathered for the funeral of Radwan Rabi Hamada, an anti-regime protester killed in the town of Saraqeb on Monday.

Observatory chairman Rami Abdul Rahman said security forces fired heavy machineguns after Hamada's burial in the village of al-Bara.

And in the southern city of Daraa, clashes broke out between deserters and the regular army, the watchdog added.

The United Nations estimates that more than 5,400 people have been killed in Syria since last March.

The regime blames the violence on "armed terrorist gangs" backed by foreign agitators.

Source: Agence France Presse, Naharnet

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