The Syrian army raided cities across the country before dawn today, killing at least 62 people—most of them in the flashpoint city of Hama where a barrage of shelling and gunfire left bodies scattered in the streets, activists and residents said. The government is escalating its crackdown ahead of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, which starts tomorrow and is expected to exacerbate protests. "It's a massacre. They want to break Hama before Ramadan," said an eyewitness.
Having sealed off the main roads into Hama almost a month ago, army troops in tanks pushed into the city before daybreak today in a coordinated assault. Residents shouted "God is great!" and threw firebombs, stones and sticks at the tanks. Other raids were reported in southern Syria and in the suburbs of the capital Damascus. In the village of al-Hirak in the southern province of Daraa, residents said security forces killed four people early today after opening fire on residents as people ventured into the streets to buy bread. An activist and Hama resident said some soldiers had defected and were fighting against troops loyal to the regime. (Read more Ramadan stories.)