On this day February 2, 1982
The Syrian army bombarded the town of Hama in order to quell a revolt by the Muslim Brotherhood, killing about over 10,000 people.
Calls for vengeance grew within the brotherhood, and bomb attacks increased in frequency.
Events culminated with a general insurrection in the conservative Sunni town of Hama in February 1982.
Islamists and other opposition activists proclaimed Hama a “liberated city” and urged Syria to rise up against the “infidel”. Brotherhood fighters swept the city of Ba’thists, breaking into the homes of government employees and suspected supporters of the regime, killing about 50.
The goal of the attack on Hama was to halt the rebellious activities of the Islamist Muslim Brotherhood. The assault began on February 2 with extensive shelling of the town of 350 000 inhabitants. Before the attack, the Syrian government called for the city’s surrender and warned that anyone remaining in the city would be considered as a rebel.
Robert Fisk in his book Pity the Nation described how civilians were fleeing Hama while tanks and troops were moving towards the city’s outskirts to start the siege. He cites reports of mass death and shortages of food and water from fleeing civilians and from soldiers .
According to Amnesty International, the Syrian military bombed the old streets of the city from the air to facilitate the introduction of military forces and tanks through the narrow streets, where homes were crushed by tanks during the first four days of fighting. They also claim that the Syrian military pumped poison gas into buildings where insurgents were said to be hiding.
The army was mobilized, and Hafez again sent Rifaat’s special forces and Mukhabarat agents to the city. After encountering fierce resistance, Rifaat’s forces ringed the city with artillery and shelled it for three weeks. Afterward, military and internal security personnel were dispatched to comb through the rubble for surviving Brothers and their sympathizers.
Then followed several weeks of torture and mass executions of suspected rebel sympathizers, killing many thousands, known as the Hama Massacre. Estimates of casualties vary from an estimated 7000 to 35,000 people killed, including about 1000 soldiers.
Journalist Robert Fisk, who was in Hama shortly after the massacre, estimated fatalities as high as 10,000. The New York Times estimated the death toll as up to 20,000.
According to Thomas FriedmanRifaat later boasted of killing 38,000 people. The Syrian Human Rights Committee estimates 30,000 to 40,000 were killed. Most of the old city was completely destroyed, including its palaces, mosques, ancient ruins and the famous Azzem Palace mansion.
After the Hama uprising, the Islamist insurrection was broken, and the Brotherhood has since operated in exile. Government repression in Syria hardened considerably, as al-Assad had spent in Hama any goodwill he previously had left with the Sunni majority, and now was compelled to rely on pure force to stay in power.