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Monday, August 15, 2011     INTELLIGENCE BRIEFING

Syria sends gunboats to target Sunni areas
in port city

NICOSIA — The Syrian Navy has joined in the crackdown by President Bashar Assad on the revolt in the Arab state.


Opposition sources said the Syrian Navy deployed at least three gunboats to attack the port city of Latakia. They said the Navy targeted Sunni neighborhoods in Latakia, the latest city to come under assault from the Assad regime.

"Warships are attacking Latakia and explosions have been heard in several districts," the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.

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In all, about 30 people were reported killed in Latakia, with a population of 650,000. The opposition said the naval assault, which continued into Aug. 15, was combined with the deployment of at least 20 T-62 main battle tanks, particularly in the Ramleh district of Latakia.

"Large numbers of residents, especially women and children, fled," Syrian Observatory said.

In a statement on Aug. 14, the human rights group, based in Britain, did not identify the Navy vessels, Middle East Newsline reported. But opposition sources said this marked the first time that the navy was used by Assad to quell the growing revolt in Syria, which began in March.

Syria has an aging navy based on Russian-origin surface vessels. They included eight Ossa-2 missile fast patrol boats and eight Zhuk-class patrol craft.

The Navy has been deployed in bases in Latakia and Tartous. The Russian Navy has been granted docking rights and was expanding the port in Tartous.

Iran was also said to have agreed to finance the construction of a military base in Latakia. On Aug. 13, Britain's Telegraph newspaper said the $23 million agreement was signed in June and meant to complete the military port by 2013.

The Assad regime has also been attacking suburbs of Damascus that have joined the revolt. Syrian Army and security units, backed by the Alawite-aligned Shabiha militia, stormed Hamriya and Saqba and severed communications.

"The security forces entered Saqba and Hamriya in great numbers and launched a campaign of arrests," Syrian Observatory said. "Gunfire was heard in both suburbs."

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