Key Syrian city under assault by Assad forces
As the London-based organization Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reports, the fire was concentrated on two impoverished districts of Latakia, Al-Raml and Skantouri, and this is where most of the casualties occurred.
Predominantly Sunni-populated neighborhoods are where most of the uprising in Latakia took place, and this is where presidential forces deployed tanks and armored vehicles three months ago to suppress the protests.
Armored vehicle on one of Latakia streets, August 14
Today, witnesses say explosions can be heard in the same districts, as Syrian gunboats fire heavy machine guns in what appears to be a renewed assault of Latakia.
"I can see the silhouettes of two grey vessels. They are firing their guns and the impact is landing on Al-Ramel, Al-Filistini and Al-Shaab neighborhoods," a witness was quoted by Reuters as saying. "This is the most intense attack on Latakia since the uprising. Anyone who sticks his head out of the window risks being shot.”
According to the same source, some 20,000 people have been rallying daily across Latakia demanding the ouster of President Bashar Assad.
The assault comes as Muslims around the world celebrate the holy month of Ramadan, and that fact has already drawn additional criticism on the Syrian president from other leaders, including King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia.
Syria Navy gunboat near the port of Latakia
The ongoing violence evokes increasing pressure on Assad from across the globe. On Saturday, US President Barack Obama and the UK Prime Minister David Cameron demanded that the Syrian government stop the bloodshed immediately.
Earlier, on August 12, the US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton called upon the international community to increase economic pressure on the Assad regime and refrain from buying Syrian oil and gas. Clinton also expressed hope that China and India will join the international sanctions and called upon the Russian government to stop its arms deals with Syria.
"Western countries irresponsible towards Syria"
The role certain parties in the West have assumed in the Syrian crisis has been sharply criticized by journalist Neil Clark, who says outside interference in the events is not at all helpful.
“Ten days ago President Assad said that he was going to allow a multi-party system in Syria, and the French said straightaway that it was provocative! Instead of being responsible, certain members of the international community are actually doing the opposite. That is why everything is still going on in Syria,” he told RT. “There is a very clear agenda here by the US and France and some of their allies. They want the Assad regime out and they want a pro-Western government in Syria.”
Clark believes the only way to resolve the political crisis in the Arab country is to maintain internal dialogue, but there is no mood for a compromise in the country as the opposition is too carried away by the support from the West. The journalist says Russia could be the only true mediator to the conflict.
“I think the only country so far that has come out and said ‘This is a complex situation’ is Russia,” observes the journalist. “Russia could play the key role here in getting some sort of dialogue going between the opposition and the regime in Syria.”