Showing Hama in ruins, Syria says revolt quelled

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Syria's government has shown off TV and still images of burned buildings and rubble-strewn streets empty of people in Hama, the epicentre of anti-regime protests, claiming it was putting an end to the rebellion in the besieged city.

Under the suffocating clampdown, residents of the city on Friday warned that medical supplies were running out and food was rotting after six days without electricity.

Across the country, tens of thousands of protesters marched, chanting their solidarity with Hama and demanding the ouster of President Bashar Assad. They were met by security forces who opened fire, killing at least 13 people, activists said.

Also on Friday, the US State Department urged Americans to leave the country immediately Syrian government forces began their ferocious assault on Hama on Sunday, cutting off electricity, phone services and Internet and blocking supplies into the city of 800,000 as they shelled neighbourhoods and sent in tanks and ground raids.

It appeared to be an all-out attempt to take back the city, which has a history of dissent after residents all but took it over since June, barricading it against the regime. Rights group say at least 100 people have been killed, while some estimates put the number as high as 250.

The tolls could not be verified because of the difficulty reaching residents and hospital officials in the city, where journalists are barred as they are throughout Syria.

Tanks shelled residential districts of Hama starting around 4am Friday, just as people were beginning their daily fast for the Muslim holy month of Ramadan mirroring a bombardment the evening before at sunset, when people were breaking the fast, one resident said. "If people get wounded, it is almost impossible to take them to hospital," the resident said by telephone, speaking on condition of anonymity for fear of retaliation.

Syrian state media on Friday proclaimed army units were ‘working to restore security, stability and normal life to Hama,’ which it said had been taken over by ‘terrorists.’

The message mirrored the regime's claim that armed extremists seeking to destabilise the country are behind the unrest, as opposed to true reform-seekers. For the first time since the siege began, government-run TV and the state news agency aired images of the ravaged streets of Hama, strewn with debris, damaged vehicles and makeshift barricades.

In one, a yellow taxi was shown with a dead man in the driver's seat and bloodstains on the door. A tank cleared away a large cement barrier and a bus with shattered windows.

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