The Syrian accounts also said at least 20 soldiers had been killed in the fighting, but said nothing about civilian casualties. Activist groups reporting from Hama â€” the source of most information about the mayhem there since Syrian forces first besieged the city last weekend â€” have said at least 200 civilians have been killed by military shelling and snipers. They reported a new round of shelling on Friday.
The resident reached by telephone said that 200 tanks had entered the city before dawn, and that security forces were blocking residents from gathering in the cityâ€™s mosques.
â€œThe government has given up its responsibilities and handed everything over to the security forces,â€ said Louay Hussein, a prominent opposition figure in Damascus. â€œThey have lost their mind. They are acting without any strategic or political goal. The governmentâ€™s armed gangs are roaming the streets, simply looking for vengeance.â€
As the government pressed its crackdown on Hama, military and security forces appeared to prepare for another assault on Deir al-Zour, a city in eastern Syria knitted by the loyalties of extended clans where protests had gathered force for the past month. Those forces shelled the city on Thursday night into Friday morning, residents said.