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Syria - Jun 17, 2011 - 15:19

Last modified: 17 Jun 2011 12:19

An eyewitness in Hama tells Al Jazeera a huge demonstration is going on now, estimating more than 150,000 people had taken to the streets chanting for peace, toppling the regime and praising Turkey for its support to Syrian refugees.

The protesters were carrying a giant Syrian flag he said residents had sown themselves in an effort to rival the 2,3km long flag used in a pro-Assad rally in Damascus earlier this week.

The witness said no army, secret police or even traffic police were deployed on the streets, but the military remained posted around the main entrances to the city where two weeks ago at least 64 protesters were killed by security forces in a single day.

“Last night we saw tanks moving around the eastern gate of Hama and we were having a night demonstration at the time, so we moved towards them and started talking to the soldiers,” he said. “We explained to them that there are no Salafis and no terrorists here and we gave them some food.”

Thewitness said he saw some soldiers defect from their unit last night, prompting gunfire but no confirmed casualties, and said the soldiers were now being sheltered by residents. Duing the assault on the north-west, several eyewitness accounts reported soldiers and secret police defecting.