Syrian tanks 'deployed near Hama'

Military buildup under way, activists say, two days after city saw mass protests against President Bashar al-Assad.

    Mass crowds came onto the streets of Hama on Friday, the city's largest display of dissent since protests began [AFP] 

    Syrian tanks and troops have been conducting operations near Hama, two days after the city saw its largest protest against President Bashar al-Assad, according to activists and residents.

    Troops backed by scores of tanks and personnel carriers advanced late Saturday on Kfar Rumma village and made arrests in the district of Jabal al-Zawiyah, Rami Abdel Rahman of the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights told the AFP news agency.

    "Ninety-seven military vehicles, including tanks and personnel carriers, carrying thousands of soldiers moved Saturday night towards Kfar Rumma," he said.

    "Hundreds of residents emerged from their homes to confront them and  prevent them from advancing, but the troops pursued their deployment to carry out their military operations."

    Al Jazeera cannot verify reports from Syria because of restrictions on reporting in the country.

    In Sunday's operations, at least five people were arrested, according to the Associated Press news agency.

    Syrian activist Rami Nakhleh said intelligence officials had also handed out notices to many youth suspected of participating in protests, demanding they visit security centres for questioning.

    A resident of Hama said communication networks had been cut off in the city, a tactic that has been used by the military ahead of assaults on cities and towns elsewhere.

    Security forces and gunmen loyal to Assad were seen in several neighbourhoods, he said.

    The security presence had lessened in Hama since forces killed at least 60 protesters in the city a month ago, in one of the bloodiest days of the uprising against Assad. Residents said security forces and snipers had fired on crowds of demonstrators.

    The move to deploy more force comes a day after Assad removed the governor of Hama, Ahmad Khaled Abdulaziz.

    The opposition has deep roots in Hama, a city of 700,000. In 1982, under the rule of Hafez al-Assad, Bashar's father, the army stormed the city to crush a revolt by the Muslim Brotherhood, leaving about 20,000 people dead.

    SOURCE: Agencies


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