Syrian troops attack as truce deadline passes10/04/2012 - 08:36:23
Activists said Syrian forces attacked two towns today as a deadline passed for President Bashar Assad’s troops to start withdrawing from populated areas under an internationally brokered truce deal.
The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said it saw no signs of a large-scale troop pullback today but that most areas of Syria appeared calm.
This is a sharp contrast to heavy attacks by Syrian forces on volatile towns in recent days.
However, activists reported shelling in the northern village of Marea and mortar fire in the city of Homs.
A collapse of the truce deal by UN-Arab League envoy Kofi Annan could move Syria closer to an all-out civil war. A 13-month uprising has turned increasingly violent in response to a brutal regime crackdown.
he fighting is also threatening to spill across Syria's borders, raising the risk of a regional conflagration.
Yesterday, Syrian forces opened fire across the Turkish and Lebanese borders, killing a TV journalist in Lebanon and wounding at least six people in a refugee camp in Turkey.
Today, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan accused Syria of violating the border and said his country is considering what steps to take in response, including measures “we don’t want to think about”. He did not elaborate.
Turkey, which has already given shelter to some 24,000 Syrian refugees, has floated the idea of creating security zones along its border, a step that could drag the Turkish military into the conflict.
Later today, Mr Annan is due to visit the Turkish refugee camp where yesterday’s shooting took place.
Under his plan, a Syrian troop pullback from towns and villages was to begin today and be completed within 48 hours with a halt to all hostilities by 6am on Thursday.
Syria initially accepted the deal, but raised made last-minute demands over the weekend, saying it could not pull back forces without written guarantees that the rebel fighters would lay down their arms.
The Syrian opposition rejected the demand, saying that, while it would go along with the truce, it does not recognise the Assad regime and would not issue the requested guarantees.
There were no signs of a large-scale troop withdrawal, though there seemed to be a drop in attacks by Syrian forces, said Rami Abdul-Rahman from the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.
The Observatory said regime troops fired shells at the town of Mareh in north-western Syria today.
Activists also said the central city of Homs was struck by mortar rounds and that forces carried out arrests in the Damascus suburb of Harasta.
Mohammed Saeed, a resident of the Damascus suburb of Douma, said tanks which routinely patrol the streets were not visible today.
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