News / Middle East

US Envoy Visits Syrian City of Hama to Support Protesters

US Ambassador to Syria Robert Ford
US Ambassador to Syria Robert Ford
TEXT SIZE - +

The U.S. ambassador to Syria has traveled to the city of Hama to express solidarity with residents protesting the rule of President Bashar al-Assad. The Syrian government condemned the visit as an attempt to incite anti-government sentiment. Hama has been a focal point of the nation's political unrest, with the situation escalating this week as tanks surround the city.

The central city of Hama has been one of the centers of the movement against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's rule.

This week, tanks moved to the outskirts of the city, raising concerns of a military assault.

A rights activist in Syria said Thursday that security patrols have killed at least 25 civilians inside Hama in recent days and detained more than 100 people. She said hundreds of people have fled the city.

U.S. State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said Thursday that the United States is "greatly concerned" about the situation in Hama. She said the U.S. ambassador to Syria, Robert Ford, had gone to the city to express solidarity with protesters.

"The fundamental intention was to make absolutely clear with his physical presence that we stand with those Syrians who are expressing their right to speak for change, who want a democratic future and are expressing those views peacefully," Nuland said.

Nuland said Ambassador Ford was in Hama Thursday on his own trip, and is not being hosted by the Syrian government. But she said the embassy did inform the government that a delegation would be heading to the city.

Nuland said Ford has described the situation in Hama as "tense," with many shops closed and people concerned about whether security forces will move in.

"He had at least a dozen encounters with those Syrians of Hama who are dissatisfied and concerned about the government's action," Nuland said.

Nuland said the U.S. ambassador plans to stay in the city through Friday, when more protests are planned.

Syrian security forces moved in on Hama after President Assad fired the provincial governor following a massive anti-government rally in the city last Friday.

Troops had largely withdrawn from the city after a June 3 crackdown on protesters that killed at least 60 people there.

Human rights groups say security forces have killed at least 1,400 civilians across Syria since the uprising began in mid-March. The Syrian government says terrorists and Islamist militants have killed hundreds of security personnel during the same period.

As the crackdown widens, London-based rights group Amnesty International says Syrian forces may have committed crimes against humanity during an operation last month near the Lebanese border.

Amnesty International's Philip Luther said a report the organization prepared on the operation looks specifically at events in the town of Talkalakh. "We conducted interviews with more than 50 people in May and June and on the basis of that heard really harrowing testimonies of torture and other ill treatment in detention, deaths in custody and arbitrary detention," Luther said.

Syrian officials have denied reports of a military campaign against Hama.

The city is an important symbol of Syrian resistance against the Assad regime and the brutality used to contain it. In 1982, President Bashar al-Assad's late father used military force to silence a rebellion there, killing tens of thousands.

Follow our Middle East reports on Twitter
and discuss them on our Facebook page.

You May Like

Photogallery Pope's Easter Prayer: Peace in Ukraine, Syria

Pontiff also calls for end to terrorist acts in Nigeria, violence in Iraq, and success in peace talks between Israelis and Palestinians More

Abdullah Holds Lead in Afghan Presidential Election

Country's Election Commission says that with half of the ballots counted, former FM remains in the lead with 44 percent of the vote More

Russia-Ukraine Crisis Could Trigger Cyber War

As tensions between Kyiv and Moscow escalate, so too has frequency of online attacks targeting government, news and financial sites More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Ukraine, Russia, United in Faith, Divided in Politicsi
X
Michael Eckels
April 19, 2014
There is a strong historical religious connection between Russia and Ukraine. But what role is religion playing in the current conflict? In the run-up to Easter, Michael Eckels in Moscow reports for VOA.
Video

Video Ukraine, Russia, United in Faith, Divided in Politics

There is a strong historical religious connection between Russia and Ukraine. But what role is religion playing in the current conflict? In the run-up to Easter, Michael Eckels in Moscow reports for VOA.
Video

Video Face of American Farmer is Changing

The average American farmer is now 58 years old, and farmers 65 and older are the fastest growing segment of the population. It’s a troubling trend signaling big changes ahead for American agriculture as aging farmers retire. Reporter Mike Osborne says a new report from the U.S. Census Bureau is suggesting what some of those changes might look like... and why they might not be so troubling.
Video

Video Donetsk Governor: Ukraine Military Assault 'Delicate But Necessary'

Around a dozen state buildings in eastern Ukraine remain in the hands of pro-Russian protesters who are demanding a referendum on self-rule. The governor of the whole Donetsk region is among those forced out by the protesters. He spoke to VOA's Henry Ridgwell from his temporary new office in Donetsk city.
Video

Video Drones May Soon Send Data From High Seas

Drones are usually associated with unmanned flying vehicles, but autonomous watercraft are also becoming useful tools for jobs ranging from scientific exploration to law enforcement to searching for a missing airliner in the Indian Ocean. VOA’s George Putic reports on sea-faring drones.
Video

Video New Earth-Size Planet Found

Not too big, not too small. Not too hot, not too cold. A newly discovered planet looks just right for life as we know it, according to an international group of astronomers. VOA’s Steve Baragona has more.
Video

Video Copts in Diaspora Worry About Future in Egypt

Around 10 percent of Egypt’s population belong to the Coptic faith, making them the largest Christian minority in the Middle East. But they have become targets of violence since the revolution three years ago. With elections scheduled for May and the struggle between the Egyptian military and Islamists continuing, many Copts abroad are deeply worried about the future of their ancient church. VOA religion correspondent Jerome Socolovsky visited a Coptic church outside Washington DC.
Video

Video Critics Say Venezuelan Protests Test Limits of Military's Support

During the two months of deadly anti-government protests that have rocked the oil-rich nation of Venezuela, President Nicolas Maduro has accused the opposition of trying to initiate a coup. Though a small number of military officers have been arrested for allegedly plotting against the government, VOA’s Brian Padden reports the leadership of the armed forces continues to support the president, at least for now.
Video

Video More Millenials Unplug to Embrace Board Games

A big new trend in the U.S. toy industry has more consumers switching off their high-tech gadgets to play with classic toys, like board games. This is especially true among the so-called millenial generation - those born in the 1980's and 90's. Elizabeth Lee has more from an unusual café in Los Angeles, where the new trend is popular and business is booming.
Video

Video Google Buys Drone Company

In its latest purchase of high-tech companies, Google has acquired a manufacturer of solar-powered drones that can stay in the air almost indefinitely, relaying broadband Internet connection to remote areas. It is seen as yet another step in the U.S. based Web giant’s bid to bring Internet to the whole world. VOA’s George Putic reports.
AppleAndroid