Belfast Telegraph

Saturday 19 April 2014

More gunfire heard in Syrian city

Government troops are in action in Latakia, residents say (AP)

Residents of a besieged Syrian coastal city have said heavy machine gun fire was heard in several districts as President Bashar Assad's offensive in Latakia entered its fourth day.

They said most of the shooting was taking place in the impoverished al-Ramel and al-Shaab neighbourhoods.

Syrian activists said the government crackdown killed 15 people across the country on Monday, including at least five in Latakia.

The UN refugee agency, UNRWA, said more than 5,000 Palestinians fled a camp in al-Ramel after Syrian forces shelled the area as part of their military assault to root out dissent. The UN has demanded access to the area.

Mr Assad has dramatically escalated the crackdown on Syria's five-month-old uprising since the start of Ramadan.

Monday's deaths bring the total of people who have died in Latakia since Saturday to around 35.

Since the start of Ramadan, Assad has launched military operations in the opposition stronghold of Hama, the eastern city of Deir el-Zour, the central city of Homs as well as the latest, in the port city of Latakia.

UNRWA said the Palestinians fled after the city came under fire from gunboats cruising off the coast and ground troops had attacked over the weekend.

"We are calling for access to the camp to find out what is going on," said spokesman Chris Gunness. "There were 10,000 refugees in the camp and we need to find out what is happening to them."

Syria has denied firing from gunboats, despite widespread witness accounts. The regime insists its crackdown is aimed at rooting out terrorists fermenting unrest in the country.

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