Syrian forces push into Hama

Aug. 2, 2011 at 8:44 AM
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HAMA, Syria, Aug. 2 (UPI) -- Syrian forces pushed into Hama, maintaining their crackdown on protesters as Western leaders discuss possible reactions to the unstable situation.

Many people fled Hama to nearby villages, fearing the army would gain total control in the city, witnesses told the BBC Tuesday.

Security forces have cracked down on protests throughout Syria, often after prayers Monday on the first day of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan. Rights groups said government troops killed about 140 people since Sunday, most of them in Hama.

While Syrian President Bashar Assad's forces tamp down protests, the U.N. Security Council was preparing to resume discussions on the months-long crisis. Russia, which has resisted agreeing to a resolution condemning the violence, has indicated it could back a diplomatically-worded statement.

Also, the European Union expanded its list of sanctioned individuals in Assad's government, including Syrian Defense Minister Ali Habib targeted by asset freezes and travel bans, Adnkronos International reported. Assad's uncle and members of state intelligence or local militias also were added.

The additions bring to 35 the number of individuals, including Assad, subject to the EU sanctions since March. Four Syrian companies also are subject to the EU actions.

Italy recalled its ambassador to Syria for consultations, citing the "horrible repression" of citizens, the BBC reported.

The current crackdown, which observers said appears meant to prevent protests from growing during Ramadan, has brought strong international condemnation. Government officials said Assad wants to enact reforms, but that "armed gangs" backed by an unnamed government are attacking Syrian citizens and security forces.

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