A raid by the Syrian army aimed to crush anti-government dissent in the city of Hama left over 100 people killed on Sunday at the eve of Ramadan, according to activists. Human rights organizations claim that it was one of the most brutal days in the Syrian uprising that began on March 15, when people took to the streets to demand for democratic reforms and the ouster of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

The White House immediately released a statement condemning the actions of the Syrian authorities on the protesters. US President Barack Obama said he was “appalled” by the use of brutal tactics by the al-Assad regime against its own citizens and vowed to do further actions in isolating al-Assad’s oppressive government.

Meanwhile, pro-government Syrian Arab News Agency reported that the security forces were merely taking routine measures to respond against supposedly “armed groups” in Hama, which it described as terrorizing the city by putting barricades and firing from buildings’ rooftops. However, this was denied by several human rights groups claiming that the army came with tanks and clearly carried out a raid of the city. The US embassy in the Syrian capital city of Damascus also dismissed the government’s version of the incident saying that the security forces were clearly on “warfare” mode against the people in Hama.

The army has intensified the crackdown on protesters ahead of the Ramadan, a month-long fasting observed throughout the Muslim world. Security forces seem to be desperate in crushing the uprising as they systematically to each small village after another throughout the country. Many are anticipating that the pro-democracy demonstrations in Syria will rise even during Ramadan that begins on Monday in the country.

Abdel Karim Rihawi, who heads the Syrian League for the Defence of Human Rights, claimed that the government crackdown at the flashpoint city of Hama occurred following an anti-government protest joined by more than 500,000 people. The people showed up in the streets on Friday following a message from a Muslim cleric urging the congregation that the current regime should not continue in power.

There are reported deaths among activists in the oil producing area of Deir ez-Zor located in the eastern part of the country, as well as in Herak in the south, and in Al-Bukamal further east. Witnesses of the incidents in Deir ez-Zor say that most of those killed were actually hit by sniper bullets in the head and on the neck. That area has become a rallying point for the Hama protesters.

There have been various calls for Mr. Obama to change his policy toward the current unrest in Syria. The Obama administration is seen by many to be more interested in “engaging” with the al-Assad regime, rather than rally behind the people’s demands for democratic change in the Arab country. This is despite the president’s support for the open revolts against long-time dictators in countries such as Egypt, Tunisia, Yemen, and Libya. Many have observed the president’s lack of aggressive policy against the al-Assad regime, which is regarded as one of the most anti-American dictators in the Arab world.