Syria apparently has replaced Libya as the main spotlight for the latest Arab Spring series, with more than 1,800 have now been killed. Syria first sent in mass security forces, tanks, artillery, and snipers to suppress the protest in May, which resulted in towns-to-towns massacre and fleeing of thousands of Syrian refugees into neighboring Turkey. By June Syria had resorted to using helicopter drones to bomb towns and cities.
Syrian navy opens fire towards the coastal town of Latakia and its port. The responsibilities of Syrian navy is seemingly to destroy its own port.
Now for the first time, the Syrian Navy became involved in the military crackdown. And where are they attacking? Latakia, the biggest port in Syria. Economists are currently trying to work out how the GDP of Syria, a country with population of 22.5 million, would look like this year. Analysts say the figure may look very ugly.
Syrian forces for the first time deployed naval power in an attempt to quell an antigovernment uprising, pummeling a coastal city that one activist described as a fortress of support for the country’s rulers until nationwide protests recently grew larger there.
Latakia is Syria’s biggest and most important port
The use of gunboats and tanks in Latakia on Sunday is likely to antagonize Western powers and Syria’s Middle East neighbors, who have been pressing for an end to the violence. Turkey, whose diplomats said they extracted a promise from President Bashar Assad last week to curb the use of force, is seemingly humiliated by Syria’s latest move.
The assault began on Saturday, a day after mass anti-government protests in the city.
On Sunday activists said Syrian warships had joined the attack, firing shells on the city. One resident told Associated Press news agency: “We are being targeted from the ground and the sea. The shooting is intense. We cannot go out. They are raiding and breaking into people’s homes.” He said that at least three gunboats were taking part and mosques had been targeted.
Syrian protestors burning Iran’s flag, Iran is a close ally for the Syrian government
BBC’s Jim Muir says, “It’s the first time, for a long time, that they’ve used gunboats against their own people.”
Witnesses and activists said fire from gunboats and tanks shook the southern parts of religiously mixed Latakia starting just before dawn. At least 25 people were killed and perhaps 100 wounded, said the activists, who added that the attacks appeared to be a response to large protests that broke out in the city on Friday.
“I have never seen anything like this,” said one activist, a 28-year-old graduate student who gave the name Abu Yousef.
“The offensive started at 5 a.m. and has not ceased for a second,” he said by telephone.
Syrian president Bashar al-Assad: “We will crush these armed terrorist gangs threatening out country.”
Syrian protestors: “We are not terrorists.”
In addition to the heavy fire on southern neighborhoods, activists said violence in Latakia over the weekend extended far into the city center, including Ugarit Square, which is known for its ancient Roman ruins. Snipers were taking positions on top of buildings and inside of people’s homes, Abu Yousef said.
The port of Latakia is the main route in Syria for containers handling, the largest and most important Syrian port, it also handles a good deal of metals, machinery, chemicals and food stuffs for the country.
Syria has come under increased diplomatic pressure in the past week to stop its crackdown on the dissent.
Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki, a Syrian ally, said Jews and Israel are behind the Syrian protest, saying their agenda is to use the Arab sectarian differences in Syria to their own advantage.
The US has imposed sanctions on Damascus and has said these could be increased, while calling on other countries to follow.
Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and Kuwait have all recalled their ambassadors, while Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu has described the methods used by the Syrian security forces as “unacceptable”.