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Anxiety Spreads In Hama Amid Violence, Isolation


Several Syrian cities came under heavy attack again yesterday with the sharpest escalation in violence coming in the central city of Hama. Human rights groups quoted local doctors who say more than a hundred people were killed there. NPR's Peter Kenyon is following the story from Beirut, and has this report.


PETER KENYON: Reached by phone at her sister's, Salwa said the men in the building had all gone out to look for transportation to get them out of the city, but while they were gone, the building was shelled.

SALWA: (Through translator) The men were gone, so we just scrambled out. It was chaos. There was shooting all around, tanks everywhere. I don't know how we made it out of the city. We wound up walking along the main highway. We still don't know where the men are.

KENYON: Unidentified Man: (Foreign Language Spoken)

KENYON: Unidentified Group: (Chanting in foreign language)

KENYON: Mohammad Ali, the name chosen by an activist from Zabadani, just outside Damascus, said his town is now surrounded, by the regime's use of force is only guaranteeing more demonstrations to come.

MOHAMMAD ALI: And after this bloody invade by the army around Syria - in Daraa, in Homs, in Deir el-Zour, in Hama in recent day - this bloody waterfall in Hama is helping us to be much stronger.

KENYON: But Russia is also blocking a Security Council resolution against the regime. For activist Ali, who was arrested and tortured early in the uprising, international silence in the face of what he calls this government slaughter, makes him wonder if anyone has the will to stop Bashar al-Assad.

ALI: He will kill all the Syrian people, and no one will punish him. Till when they will stay silent? Till when? Till they - all the Syrian people killed?

KENYON: For Salwa, the Hama resident who fled with her children, the overwhelming impression she had yesterday as she ran from her city was a familiar fear dredged up from her childhood when she watched Bashar's father, Hafez al-Assad's troops destroy much of Hama and kill thousands.

SALWA: (Through translator) I was there in 1982. I was 10 years old. This felt exactly the same. I could hear the same screams. I felt the same atmosphere as back then.

KENYON: Peter Kenyon, NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Peter Kenyon is NPR's international correspondent based in Istanbul, Turkey.