Activists – Syrian troops raid Latakia houses

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Syria's security forces continued its crackdown on protestors Wednesday (August 17th) in the coastal city of Latakia, AFP reported.

At least 700 security personnel were involved in house-to-house raids, said the London-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights in a statement.

"Heavy gunfire continued in most opposition neighbourhoods overnight" and continued Wednesday, the group said. Government troops also carried out raids in the Rukn Eddin district of Damascus as dozens of arrests were made and electricity was cut.

On Tuesday British Foreign Secretary William Hague said Syrian president Bashar Assad was "fast losing the last shreds of his legitimacy".

Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Mouallem blasted unnamed countries for "putting pressure on Syria to stop the violence but ignoring that terrorist armed groups are behind this violence," according to state media reports.

Russia is continuing to fulfil its contractual obligations to send military hardware purchased by Syria. "While there are no orders or directions from the government, we are obliged to fulfil our contractual obligations," said Anatoly Isaikin, the head of Russia’s arms export company Rosoboroexport.

The United Nations said Wednesday it withdrew "more than 20 personnel out of Syria, all of whom are non-essential United Nations staff," AFP reported.

Also on Wednesday, Switzerland expanded sanctions against the Syrian government to include 12 additional associates of Assad, AFP reported. The new list includes Zulhima Shalish, the head of presidential security and cousin of Assad and former Defence Minister Ali Mahmud.

Switzerland already froze assets belonging to 22 other regime associates worth a combined $31.7 million. The measures were enacted "due to the violent repression that the army and Syrian security forces have enforced to crush peaceful demonstrations," the Swiss Economy Ministry said in a statement.