Tank in Damascus suburb on Tuesday
Photo: AFP
Assad regime continues shelling?
Photo: EPA

Syrian official: Troops start pullout

Syrian gov't official says troops begin to disengage from towns; Opposition denies claim

Syrian troops began pulling out Tuesday from some calm cities and headed back to their bases a week ahead of a deadline to implement an international cease-fire plan, a government official said.


The claim could not immediately be verified and activists near the capital Damascus denied troops were leaving their area. They said the day regime forces withdraw from streets, Syria will witness massive protests that will overthrow the government.


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"Forces began withdrawing to outside calm cities and are returning to their bases, while in tense areas, they are pulling out to the outskirts," the government official told The Associated Press in Damascus without saying when the withdrawal began. He spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to talk to the media.

עשן מיתמר באידליב. חלק ממסע הפשיטות והמעצרים של הצבא (צילום: AP)

Smoke billows in Idlib in aftermath of shelling (Photo: AP)


President Bashar Assad agreed just days ago to an April 10 deadline to implement international envoy Kofi Annan's truce plan. It requires regime forces to withdraw from towns and cities and observe a cease-fire. Rebel fighters are to immediately follow by ceasing violence.


Khaled al-Omar, an activist in the Damascus suburb of Saqba, denied that any withdrawal was under way in his area.


"This is impossible. I can see a checkpoint from my window, he said via Skype, adding the regime forces were still in the main square.


Earlier in the day, opposition activists charged that the regime was racing to crush opponents ahead of the cease-fire deadline by carrying out intense raids, arrests and shelling on Tuesday.

אנשי האופוזיציה: "נמשיך להתנגד, עד שנראה צעדים חיוביים מהמשטר" (צילום: AP)

Rebels vowed to continue fight (Photo:AP) 


Russia's Foreign Ministry said Tuesday that Syria had informed its close ally Moscow that it has started implementing the plan. The ministry's statement did not say which troops – if any – had been withdrawn or provide further details. It called on rebel forces to follow suit.


US calls for UN response

The United States said Tuesday that the UN Security Council must respond urgently and seriously if Syria fails to keep its pledge to halt offensive military operations by April 10.


US Ambassador Susan Rice told reporters that Syrian forces have been continuing offensive operations and the United States "is concerned and quite skeptical that the government of Syria will suddenly adhere to its commitments."


If it doesn't, Rice expressed hope the divided Security Council will "see the wisdom of delivering not just a strong message but strong actions." 

ארה"ב פועלת לגיבוש הצהרה התומכת בשליח אנאן (צילום: AFP)

Rice: US skeptical over plant implementation (Photo: AFP)


Activists said Syrian forces shelled rebellious neighborhoods in the central city of Homs and the nearby towns Qusair and Rastan Tuesday and carried out raid and arrest campaigns elsewhere.


The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said at least two civilians were killed in clashes between rebels and government forces that stormed the town of Taftanaz and torched a number of homes.

The group also said government forces carried out raids and burned homes in the central province of Hama and Daraa in the south.


Gunmen in the northern city of Aleppo attacked the home of the head of military institutions late Monday and killed two guards, the groups said.


Another activist group, the Local Coordination Committees, said at least 13 people were killed nationwide, six of them in Homs province and 5 in the raid of Taftanaz.


Yitzhak Benhorin and Roi Kais contributed to the report




פרסום ראשון: 04.03.12, 22:27
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