Continued from page 1

Ford reached the city after passing checkpoints run by the military and Hama residents. Nuland said he met nervous residents and saw many shops closed because of a protest-linked strike. He also visited a hospital treating the wounded.

The Syrian government did not comment on French Ambassador Eric Chevallier’s trip to Hama.

France’s Foreign Ministry said in a statement that Chevallier’s visit shows “France’s concern for the Syrian population … (France) denounces the pursuit of violence and arbitrary arrests and the absence of a credible commitment from the Syrian authorities to a political reform process.”

Hama residents have shut down the city in recent days, going on strike and trying to prevent security forces from entering by setting up checkpoints of tires and concrete blocks.

Still, the London-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said 21 people have been killed there since Tuesday. Another group, the National Organization for Human Rights in Syria said, as many as 22 people were shot dead and more than 80 wounded.

The Syrian regime has used a mix of fierce violence and promises of imminent reform to try to quell the uprising, which was inspired by the revolutions in Tunisia and Egypt. Some 1,600 people and 350 members of security forces have been killed since demonstrations began, activists say.

The regime blames “armed thugs” and foreign conspirators for the unrest, not true reform-seekers.

Also Friday, security forces killed three protesters in Maaret al-Numan, a town on the highway linking Damascus, the capital, with Syria’s largest city, Aleppo, said Syrian rights activist Ammar Qurabi.

Ten other people were killed around the country, including one in Damascus, six in the Damascus suburb of Dumair and three in the central city of Homs. Syrian state-run TV said the deaths in Damascus and Homs were caused by snipers from “armed gangs.”

Overnight, Syrian forces killed three people in a demonstration in the Damascus suburb of Harasta, activists said. Many protesters have recently been opting for nighttime demonstrations and candlelight vigils, aiming for a time when the security presence thins out.

Three activists confirmed the Damascus death toll to The Associated Press.

A Syria-based activist said residents told him that security forces used live bullets and smoke bombs to quell the demonstration. He spoke on condition of anonymity, fearing for his own safety.

Syria has banned nearly all foreign media and restricted media coverage, making it nearly impossible to independently verify events on the ground.

Associated Press writers Elizabeth A. Kennedy in Beirut and Matthew Lee and Bradley Klapper in Washington contributed to this report.