The New York Times reports:
Syria’s state news media broadcast stark images of the destruction in the besieged city of Hama for the first time on Friday, showing burned buildings, makeshift barricades and deserted streets strewn with rubble in footage that appeared designed to show that government forces had put down a rebellion in the city.
The images were unmistakably Hama, Syria’s fourth-largest city and a focal point of the five-month-old uprising that has left President Bashar al-Assad’s leadership isolated and weakened. They suggested the military had retaken control of a city that had briefly wrested itself from four decades of authoritarian rule by the Assad family and enjoyed an unprecedented measure of freedom.
The reports by Syrian television and Sana, the official news agency, portrayed the army as Hama’s savior. The news appeared aimed at reinforcing the leadership’s message to internal opponents that they are regarded as armed insurrectionist gangs inspired by hostile foreign powers and will be dealt with accordingly. But the television footage of the wreckage in Hama also implicitly acknowledged that the violence there had been far more serious than Mr. Assad’s government had until now been willing to publicly admit.
It also underlined a legacy of the assault: Hama was remarkably peaceful after security forces withdrew in June. Violence erupted only when the government, fearing the momentum the city might provide the uprising, began its ferocious assault on Sunday. Although government officials insist the protesters were armed, not a single weapon was seen in the streets on a recent visit, an account confirmed by diplomats in their trips there. Barricades were set up, but only to block the return of the military and security forces.
“Today we are alive, but tomorrow we don’t know,” said a resident reached by telephone who gave his name as Fadi. “The humanitarian situation is getting worse day by day.”
Government officials offered an altogether different version of events, in reports from Damascus, the capital, that appeared more and more to defy reality.