To the east, troops seized control of another flashpoint city, Deir el-Zour, after four days of intense shelling and gunfire.As Assad has done since the beginning, he's blaming all the violence on terrorists, rather than the peaceful protesters that his security goons have repeatedly brutalized as witnessed on countless videos that have made their way out of the country.
The government took journalists on a tour to see a rare glimpse of Hama, a city of 800,000 which has seen some of the largest anti-government protests of the 5-month-old uprising.
About 50 armored personnel carriers were placed on flatbed trucks heading out of the city after a weeklong military assault that the government said was aimed at rooting out "terrorists." The government blames the unrest in Syria on foreign extremists, a claim dismissed by most observers.
Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan also said his ambassador reported that tanks and security forces had begun to withdraw from Hama.
"Let's hope that this development results positively and that within 10 or 15 days the process is completed so that steps toward reforms are taken in Syria," Erdogan said.
In Hama, cement and metal barriers blocked streets and soldiers were removing some of the barricades. Piles of uncollected garbage littered the streets. At the southern entrance of the city, a two-story police station was burnt.
"We have finished a delicate operation in which we eradicated terrorists' hideouts," an army officer told reporters.
Assad also rebuffed Turkey's requests to end the crackdown. Syria's military has also been working close to Turkey's border, which has Turkey concerned about the ongoing refugee issue as well.
Syria's massive crackdown has done little to help one of Assad's proxies - Hizbullah. Lebanon is starting to realize the devil's deal they have with that terror group now that it is firmly entrenched in the legislature despite the fact that it continues to violate UN SCR 1701 and maintains its own military.
At recent protests, Syrians demonstrating against President Bashar Assad have also unleashed their anger at the Shiite Hezbollah over its blunt support for the regime. Some protesters have set fire to the yellow flag of Hezbollah and pictures of the group's leader, Sheik Hassan Nasrallah.
Such outcry is startling in a country that prides itself for being a bastion of resistance against the U.S. and Israel and has lionized Hezbollah. Syrians and Arabs around the region have in recent years elevated Nasrallah to the status of a nationalist hero after his guerrillas' 2006 war with Israel, and posters of the turbaned, bearded sheik are one of the top selling items in Syrian souvenir shops.
The anger at Hezbollah illustrates the delicate, contradictory position of the Shiite movement. On the one hand, the source of its popularity — even among many Sunnis in the region — has been its image as a patriotic force to defend Lebanon against Israel, and it is highly protective of that image. On the other, its close alliance to Syria and, even more, to Iran make it vulnerable to accusations that it is merely a well-armed tool for those regimes.
Newly released indictments by the U.N.-backed Special Tribunal for Lebanon accusing four Hezbollah members in the 2005 assassination of former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri, Lebanon's most powerful Sunni leader, further cast a shadow over its reputation.