Syrian forces stormed the opposition stronghold of Hama on Sunday, in a bid to crush demonstrations before the start of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan. By this morning (1 August), the death toll had been reported to have reached 84. The head of the political department of the Syrian army, Lieutenant General Riad Haddad, called the attacks on some cities an “indispensable necessity” to defend and protect the country. With Friday prayers having been a major rallying point for protests, more frequent visits to mosques during Ramadan might raise the potential for more regular demonstrations. But the weekend’s crackdown may well spur more protests and widespread violence during the holy period. Meanwhile, foreign journalists remain banned from Syria, leaving much reporting in the hands of activists and citizen journalists, who face considerable risk.