Syrian forces kill 59 in attack on funeral

The Associated Press

BEIRUT — Syrian troops fired on mourners at a funeral and raided an eastern city Sunday, killing at least 59 people in an intensifying government crackdown on protesters that defies an international chorus of condemnation.

More than 300 people have died in the past week, the bloodiest in the five-month uprising against authoritarian President Bashar Assad. Not all were killed by bullets or tank shells: In the besieged city of Hama, where the government has cut off electricity and communications, a rights group said eight babies died because their incubators lost power.

“The city was bombed by all types of heavy weapons and machine gun fire before troops started entering,” an activist in the city said, speaking on condition of anonymity for fear of reprisals.

“Humanitarian conditions in the city are very bad because it has been under siege for nine days,” the activist said. “There is lack of medicine, baby formula, food and gasoline. The city is totally paralyzed.”

The government’s crackdown on mostly peaceful, unarmed protesters demanding political reforms and an end to the Assad family’s 40-year rule has left more than 1,700 dead since March, according to activists and human rights groups.

The regime intensified the crackdown a week ago on the eve of Ramadan. The government has been trying to prevent the large mosque gatherings from turning into more anti-government protests.

The latest attacks have brought a new wave of condemnation.

King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia has said the Syrian government crackdown on protesters is disproportionate.

The 22-member Arab League, which had been silent since the uprising began, said Sunday it is “alarmed” by the situation in Syria and called for the immediate halt of all violence.

In Cairo, Arab League Chief Nabil Elaraby called on Syrian authorities to “immediately stop all acts of violence and security attacks and for a speedy adoption of necessary steps in this regard to preserve the national unity.” Just last month, Elaraby visited Syria and said the country had entered a new era on the road to reform.