Tank, navy attack on Syria’s Latakia kills 26 -witnesses

AMMAN, (Reuters) – Syrian tanks and navy ships  shelled the main Mediterra-nean port city of Latakia yesterday,  residents and rights groups said, killing 26 people as President  Bashar al-Assad’s forces launched an offensive by land and sea  to crush protests against his rule.

Since the beginning of the fasting month of Ramadan on Aug. 1, Assad’s forces have mounted operations across the country to  try to suppress protests demanding political freedom and an end  to 41 years of Assad family rule.

“I can see the silhouettes of two grey vessels. They are  firing their guns and the impact is landing on al-Raml  al-Filistini and al-Shaab neighbourhoods,” one witness told Reuters by phone from Latakia, where tanks and armoured vehicles  were deployed three months ago to crush dissent against Assad in  mainly Sunni neighbourhoods of the mixed city.

“This is the most intense attack on Latakia since the  uprising. Anyone who sticks his head out of the window risks  being shot. They want to finish off the demonstrations for  good,” he said.

Around 20,000 people have been rallying daily to demand  Assad’s removal in different areas of the city after Rama-dan evening prayers, said the witness, a university student who did  not want to be further identified.

The Syrian National Organisation for Human Rights, headed by  dissident Ammar al-Qurabi, said it had the names of 26 civilians  killed in Latakia, including a two-year-old girl, Ola  al-Jablawi. The deaths came after security forces shot dead 20  people during nationwide marches on Friday.

Assad comes from Qerdaha, a village in the Alawite Mountains  28 km (17 miles) southeast of Latakia, where his father, the  late President Hafez al-Assad, is buried.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said most of the  casualties were shot by machineguns.

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