The activists said authorities have effectively imposed a news blackout on Hama by cutting cellular, land lines and Internet after reports of at least 100 killed in the first four days of the government assault. - File Photo

BEIRUT: Syrian security forces shot dead six people who took part in anti-regime protests after special nighttime Ramazan prayers across the country, activists said Thursday.

The latest killings came as telephone and communication lines remained cut with the restive central city of Hama, where a deadly military operation has been under way since Sunday.

The activists said authorities have effectively imposed a news blackout on Hama by cutting cellular, land lines and Internet after reports of at least 100 killed in the first four days of the government assault.

Phone calls by the Associated Press to the city were not going through on Thursday.

On Wednesday, Syrian tanks stormed Hama under heavy shelling, taking over a main city square.

The military offensive against Hama, 130 miles (210 kilometers) north of the capital Damascus, prompted the UN Security Council to act after months of deadlock.

The Council responded to the escalating violence with a statement late Wednesday condemning Syrian President Bashar Assad's forces for attacking civilians and committing human rights violations.

The presidential statement, adopted by the Security Council, called on Syrian authorities to immediately end all violence and launch an inclusive political process that will allow the Syrian people to fully exercise ''fundamental freedoms ... including that of expression and peaceful assembly.''

British Foreign Secretary William Hague said the statement ''demonstrates the rising international concern at the unacceptable behavior of the regime and shows that president Assad is increasingly isolated.''

French Foreign Minister Alain Juppe called the statement ''a turning point in the attitude of the international community'' and said Syria must now halt the attacks and implement reforms.

Abdul-Karim Rihawi, Damascus-based chief of the Syrian Human Rights League, said there was no information coming out from Hama on Thursday.

''A high number of casualties is expected from such a massive military operation,'' he said but would not speculate further.

Elsewhere in Syria, Rihawi said six people were killed by security forces on Wednesday night. Two protesters were shot dead in the Damascus central neighborhood of Midan, three in the southern village of Nawa and one in the ancient city of Palmyra.

The Local Coordination Committees, another group that tracks the regime crackdown, confirmed the deaths.

Muslims throng mosques during the Muslim holy month for the special nightly prayers after breaking their dawn-to-dusk fast.

Since Ramazan started on Monday, these gatherings have turned into large anti-government protests and prompted a fierce crackdown.


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