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The Assad regime has been far from delicate in it’s handling of the protests but when it employs gunboats to subdue the unrest you know that things have taken a turn for the worse. Navy ships started shelling the port city on Sunday in coordination with an attack by tanks, soldiers and paramilitary troops.

This is a worrying escalation of violence, especially as Syrians and foreign observers had hoped that the recent international pressure, including a visit by the Turkish Foreign Minister and ambassador recalls by several Gulf states, would at the very least bring a temporary respite from the government violence.

The assault came after large-scale protests in the city on Friday and followed the same less-than-subtle pattern as previous attacks on dissenting populations: deployment of tanks, cutting of water and electricity, all followed by sweeping arrests and random gunfire.

Unsurprisingly, SANA has denied that Navy ships were used in the attack: “The [SANA] Correspondent refuted some satellite channels’ claims of bombarding the mentioned neighbourhood from the sea, indicating that what is really taking place is a pursuit of gunmen”.

I’m guessing that this latest round of violence will leave many diplomats and foreign politicians wondering what to do next. The recent visit from the Turkish Foreign Minister and the emergence of a loose anti-Assad bloc in the region has so far done little to deter the regime from its violent rampage across Syria.

Smoke rising from Latakia on Sunday

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