Residents flee Hama
Some 100 families have fled Syria's central city of Hama fearing a military crackdown on protests against the regime of President Bashar al-Assad, a rights group said on Thursday. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights conveyed that in the past few hours some 1,000 people in total had left Hama.
The people were headed for Salamiyah, a town some 30 kilometres from Hama.
Ammar Qurabi, head of the National Organisation for Human Rights, said on Wednesday the security situation had deteriorated with the "pursuit of search operations, assassinations and arrests in this city."
On its part, Syria's Al-Watan newspaper, which is close to the regime, said on Thursday that the situation in Hama was calm and the barricades erected in the streets by protesters had been dismantled. It added that the authorities had told demonstrators to avoid any confrontations and clear the streets so residents could go to work and to avoid what it called a "last resort" military operation.
According to Al-Watan, the protesters were calling for the sacked governor to be reinstated, for detained demonstrators to be released, for a pledge that the security forces would not intervene, and for a guarantee of freedom to demonstrate.