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News Wrap: Syrian Regime Proclaims Victory in Hama Crackdown

August 5, 2011 at 12:00 AM EDT

HARI SREENIVASAN: Tens of thousands of protesters took to streets across Syria again today, demanding an end to president Bashar al-Assad’s regime. The Syrian government proclaimed victory in crushing the uprising in one city, Hama. Troops there opened fire on demonstrators, killing at least 13 of them, on this first Friday of the holy month of Ramadan.

We have a report narrated by Jonathan Miller of Independent Television News.

JONATHAN MILLER: Even a house of God on a Friday in Ramadan isn’t safe on this, a day of protest dubbed by demonstrators as “the day God is with us.”

Syrian soldiers fired into this mosque in Homs, hitting one worshiper, causing panic. In Damascus, they surround another mosque. There was live firing and tear gas on the streets of the capital this afternoon, ordinary Syrian people prepared to die to see the back of Bashar al-Assad, the dictator prepared to kill to stay in power.


JONATHAN MILLER: This is the city of Hama this morning, day six of the siege, 250 dead since Sunday, one resident claimed today. “We’re being slaughtered like sheep,” he said.

Bashar al-Assad’s father killed 20,000 people here 30 years ago — disbelief, as history repeats itself. The protests are huge and countrywide, from the capital, to the hearthstone of rebellion in the south, to Homs, Al-Rastan, through Hama to Latakia on the Mediterranean. Idlib in the north, Aleppo, Hasaka, Qamishli, and, in the east, Dayr az Zawr, Mayadin, and Al-Bukamal. And that’s only the big ones.

HARI SREENIVASAN: Earlier today, I talked about the crackdown with a spokesperson for a newly formed organization in Damascus called the Coalition of Free Damascenes for Peaceful Change.

For safety reasons, the man I spoke with used the pseudonym “Alexander Page.”

“ALEXANDER PAGE,” Spokesperson, Coalition of Free Damascenes for Peaceful Change: What we’re seeing is protests every day, evening protests now mainly because of the fact that it’s Ramadan, and people, after (INAUDIBLE) which is when people finish their fast and they eat, people go to prayers, and that being the easiest way to gather up in large numbers.

So, basically, every evening at around 10 p.m., what we’re seeing is mass protests in central Damascus now, which we weren’t seeing much of in the past few weeks or months. The city has been actually isolated apart. What they have done is they put checkpoints up all around the city and basically split each suburb away from the other suburb, because what the organizing committees are trying to do is, they’re trying to gather up all the protesters from all the areas to go down into one large square in central Damascus. And that’s been impossible because of the checkpoints that are being put up.

HARI SREENIVASAN: President Obama spoke with the leaders of France and Germany today, and they agreed to consider further steps to pressure Assad’s regime to stop the crackdown. All three leaders condemned the violence.

Government troops opened fire on famine victims in Somalia today, killing at least seven people. Witnesses said the attack happened at the largest refugee camp in Mogadishu, when looting began during a food distribution. About 100,000 refugees have fled to Mogadishu in the last two months.

Approximately 4,000 Federal Aviation Administration employees who were on furlough can return to work on Monday. President Obama signed a bill into law to end the two-week partial shutdown of the agency, after the U.S. Senate passed it by unanimous consent this morning. Congress went into its August recess without resolving a standoff over cuts to rural air service.

This measure only extends the agency’s funding through mid-September. The shutdown cost the government roughly $400 million in uncollected airline taxes.

NASA launched a robotic explorer to Jupiter today. It will take the spacecraft Juno five years to journey to Jupiter, the largest planet in our solar system. It lifted off from Cape Canaveral in Florida this afternoon, and will be powered by three huge solar panels. Scientists hope to study how Jupiter was made. It is believed to be the oldest planet in the solar system.

Honda announced a recall of a million-and-a-half vehicles today to repair a software problem that affects their automatic transmissions. Another million cars were recalled overseas. The recall affects four-cylinder Accords for the model years 2005 to 2010, CR-Vs from 2007 to 2010, and 2005 to 2008 Honda Elements. If the software is not updated, it could damage the automatic transmission when the driver quickly shifts between gears. So far, no injuries or deaths have been reported.

Those are some of the day’s major stories.