Protests in Syria in support of besieged city

Arab World Materials 7 July 2011 11:49 (UTC +04:00)

Overnight protests were staged in several Syrian towns in solidarity with the central city of Hama, which was the target of a draconian security crackdown this week, according to activists Thursday, DPA reported.

Protesters took to the streets Wednesday night in al-Hajar al-Aswad near the capital Damascus and in the western province of Homs, demanding an end to a siege laid by the army and the security forces to Hama, according to activists and media accounts.

At least 23 people were killed in the crackdown in Hama, which was the scene of massive protests against the rule of President Bashar al-Assad last Friday, said local human rights groups on Thursday.

Such reports are difficult to verify because the Syrian government bars foreign media from entering the country.

The Syrian government has accused "subversive groups" of blocking roads and torching tyres in Hama.

"The security forces entered the city to re-establish security and stability in the area where acts of blocking roads and sabotage were carried out," official Syrian TV quoted an official as saying.

Security forces have beefed up their presence in Hama, mainly around the city's headquarters of the ruling Baath Party and the police command centre, Al Arabiya TV quoted an unidentified resident as saying.

Syria has been gripped by unprecedented protests demanding wide reforms and al-Assad's ouster since mid-March.