Northern Syrian city rocked by violence

Aug. 16, 2011 at 7:18 AM
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LATAKIA, Syria, Aug. 16 (UPI) -- Shelling from gunboats and tanks bombarded Latakia, Syria, Tuesday, the fourth day of a military assault to quell anti-government protests, witnesses said.

A resident identified only as Ismail said at least five people died and government snipers were positioned throughout the northern city, taking shots at anyone venturing onto the streets, al-Jazeera reported.

"What's happening [in Latakia] is really severe. Shooting is still there and the buildings are occupied by others. The moment they see anything moving they will shoot it," Ismail said.

Another witness told CNN snipers were at various locations in the Latakia's al-Ramel neighborhood, where thousands of Palestinians reportedly fled a U.N. refugee camp in recent days.

Demonstrations have taken place in the Ramel area every day since the Syrian uprising against President Bashar Assad's regime began five months ago, a humanitarian aid group said. The neighborhood's lack of basic urban services also could be a reason why Ramel residents were angry at the Syrian government.

"This is the fourth day that we do not have electricity or water," the unidentified man told CNN in a satellite phone interview. "Landline phone connections have been down most of the day."

The Syrian government has denied reports that more than 5,000 Palestinians fled the camp after it came under fire from Syrian security forces. The state-run Syrian Arab News Agency also reported that accounts of shelling by the navy on Ramel were "completely untrue."

Two more Middle Eastern countries joined the list of countries calling for the Assad regime to end its violent crackdown on anti-government protesters.

In Jordan, the state-run Petra News Agency reported Prime Minister Marouf al-Bakhit urged his Syrian counterpart, Adel Safar, "to immediately halt military operations, implement speedy reform and spare the blood of the Syrian people, expressing the kingdom's rejection and regret over the continued killing and escalation in neighboring Syria."

In Turkey, Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu, who recently visited Damascus, told reporters he asked the Syrian military to end its operations and meet the democratic demands of the people.

Turkish President Abdullah Gul met with Saudi King Abdallah in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, Monday, and both "underscored the significance of halting the violence the Syrian administration is resorting to against people," Gul's office said in a statement.

King Abdallah last week recalled the Saudi ambassador from Damascus. Bahrain and Kuwait also have recalled their ambassadors.

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