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Syrian gunboats fire on coastal city; 5 killed - ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive
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In this citizen journalism image an anti-Syrian President Bashar Assad protester holds up a banner reading:"The destroying of mosques will not stop the demonstrations,"  in Edlib province, northern Syria. (AP)

In this citizen journalism image an anti-Syrian President Bashar Assad protester holds up a banner reading:”The destroying of mosques will not stop the demonstrations,” in Edlib province, northern Syria. (AP)

BEIRUT (AP) — Syrian gunboats firing heavy machine guns pounded impoverished districts of Latakia on Sunday, killing at least five people in a renewed assault on the Mediterranean coastal city, activists said.

As the gunships blasted waterfront districts, ground troops backed by tanks and security agents stormed several neighborhoods. The sharp crackle of machine-gun fire and loud explosions could be heard across the city.

The intense operations in Latakia, a key port city once known as a summer tourist draw, are part of a brutal government crackdown on several Syrian cities meant to root out protesters demanding the ouster of President Bashar Assad.

At least 20 tanks and armored personnel carriers rolled into the city’s al-Ramel district Saturday amid intense gunfire that sent many residents fleeing the area. Activists said at least two people were killed in the initial assault.

The al-Ramel section of Latakia has seen large protests against Assad’s regime since demonstrations broke out throughout the country in mid-March. Up to 10,000 people turned out in protests in the area Friday.

Activists said Syrian security forces stormed several districts in Latakia Sunday.

At least five people have died in the shooting according to Rami Abdul-Rahman, head of the London-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights and the activist network the Local Coordination Committees.

They said gunboats in the Mediterranean are taking part in Sunday’s assault. He says they are firing heavy machine guns at al-Ramel. A large number of people were wounded as a result of the indiscriminate firing on houses, they said.

The government has justified its crackdown by saying it’s dealing with terrorist gangs and criminals who are fomenting unrest.

The Syrian uprising was inspired by the revolts and calls for reform sweeping the Arab world, and activists and rights groups say most of those killed have been unarmed civilians. An aggressive new military offensive that began with the Muslim holy month of Ramadan at the start of August has killed several hundred people in just one week.

In this citizen journalism image Anti-Syrian President Bashar Assad protesters, hold up a placard reading:" Turkey gives the regime deadline and Iran sends it money and kisses while the army and security enjoy killing," in the Daraa province. (AP)

In this citizen journalism image Anti-Syrian President Bashar Assad protesters, hold up a placard reading:” Turkey gives the regime deadline and Iran sends it money and kisses while the army and security enjoy killing,” in the Daraa province. (AP)

Anti-Syrian regime protesters of an Islamic group, pray for the Syrian protesters who demonstrate against the Syrian President Bashar Assad, in the southern port city of Sidon, Lebanon. (AP)

Anti-Syrian regime protesters of an Islamic group, pray for the Syrian protesters who demonstrate against the Syrian President Bashar Assad, in the southern port city of Sidon, Lebanon. (AP)

Asharq Al-Awsat

Asharq Al-Awsat

Asharq Al-Awsat is the world’s premier pan-Arab daily newspaper, printed simultaneously each day on four continents in 14 cities. Launched in London in 1978, Asharq Al-Awsat has established itself as the decisive publication on pan-Arab and international affairs, offering its readers in-depth analysis and exclusive editorials, as well as the most comprehensive coverage of the entire Arab world.

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