The Syrian military intensified its assault on the besieged city at the center of the country's uprising Sunday as defiant residents who have been pinned down in their homes for nearly a week struggled to find food, pass along information and bury their dead.
President Bashar Assad is determined to crush the six-week-old revolt, which began in the southern city of Daraa but quickly spread across the nation of 23 million people.
"The security solution isn't working. People are still demonstrating," Damascus-based human rights activist Razan Zaitouneh told the Associated Press by telephone. "They can't stop these (protests) now."
A drought-plagued city near the Jordanian border, Daraa has been without water, fuel or electricity for a week, when the regime sent in troops backed by tanks and snipers to crush protests seeking the ouster of Assad. He has portrayed the unrest as a foreign conspiracy by extremists and armed thugs, not true reform-seekers.
Syrian army tanks shelled the old quarter of Daraa on Sunday and rolled in six armored vehicles, flanked on either side by two buses packed with more security forces, residents said. Snipers nesting on rooftops and hiding in high mosque minarets have kept people cowering in fear inside their homes.
But residents remained defiant and resourceful, using battery-powered computers and satellite telephones to communicate with the outside world, and sneaking through alleyways to share information. With soldiers stationed at cemeteries — apparently an attempt to pinpoint the families of protesters — many were hiding corpses in refrigerated trucks.
Unable to leave their homes, Daraa residents chant "God is Great!" to each other from their windows, infuriating security forces and raising each other's spirits, according to residents.
Other areas of the country also have come under military control, but Daraa has faced the most serious stranglehold. It was in Daraa that the protest movement kicked off six weeks ago, sparked by the arrest of a group of teenagers who scrawled antigovernment graffiti on a wall in Daraa.