SYRIA: Warships shelling coastal city in bid to crush opposition [Updated]
Syrian security forces escalated their two-day assault on the restive coastal city of Lattakia on Sunday, reportedly shelling residential districts of the city from navy warships moored in the Mediterranean Sea.
According to a witness cited by the Reuters news agency, at least two warships could be scene firing on the religiously mixed city, which has a population of about 650,000 and hosts a major port.
"I can see the silhouettes of two grey vessels," the Reuters witness said. "They are firing their guns and the impact is landing" on the Ramel Palestinian refugee camp and the Shaab neighborhoods.
The Al Arabiya and Al Jazeera television networks reported five to 10 dead in the city. On Saturday, nine people were killed nationwide.
[Updated, 6 a.m. PDT: Newly posted video, below, said to be from Lattakia shows a warship off the city's coast, as well as tanks positioned near the shoreline.]
Lattakia's large minority Allawite Muslim and Christian populations should have made it a pillar of support for the regime of Bashar Assad, an Allawite who has long argued the country's Sunni majority would crush smaller groups should it ever overthrow him.
Instead Lattakia has emerged as a boisterous bastion of peaceful opposition to the Assad family's four-decade rule over the country, posing an especially acute challenge to regime propaganda. On Friday, as Assad's gunmen and tanks assaulted peaceful protesters in other cities, huge rallies erupted in central Lattakia.
Activists reported that the tanks moved into the city Saturday, with truck-mounted anti-aircraft machine guns and tanks opening fire on people indiscriminately. Among those killed was Hisham Shammat, a resident of the city, said the Local Coordinating Committee, an activist network.
There were reports of heavy gunfire and explosions in several districts beginning Sunday morning, as shown in the video above.
-- Borzou Daragahi in Beirut
Photo and video credit: YouTube