Syrians, troops in standoff in Hama

HAMA, Syria, July 6 (UPI) — Syrian troops have killed at least 22 people in a crackdown in the central city of Hama, a human rights organization said Wednesday.

The crackdown began Tuesday, but one witness indicated there was a standoff between citizens and Syrian government forces, a news blog offered by The Guardian in Britain reported Wednesday.

“The people are controlling the whole city,” the man identified as Omar wrote.

Omar said government troops made occasional raids on the city but residents were largely keeping troops in check, the British newspaper’s blog said.

“It is become more and more difficult to attack and enter the city,” he wrote.

In addition to the 22 deaths, the National Organization for Human Rights in Syria said more than 80 people were wounded in the confrontations.

“A large number of Hama residents have fled either to the nearby town of al-Salamiya or toward Damascus,” Ammar Qurabi, the organization’s chairman, said in a statement.

The U.S. State Department Tuesday urged the Syrian regime to withdraw its forces from Hama, a city of 800,000 people that saw a huge anti-government demonstration Friday.

For months, Syrian President Bashar Assad has faced a mounting challenge to his 11-year rule.

Source: United Press International (UPI).

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