Middle East News
19 killed in Syria as ceasefire deadline approaches
Apr 6, 2012, 13:55 GMT
Beirut - Nineteen people were killed Friday in fresh clashes between the Syrian Army and rebels, opposition activists said, as a United Nations team held negotiations in Damascus on the deployment of monitors to supervise a ceasefire.
Fighting was reported in the southern province of Daraa and the northern province of Idlib, near the border with Turkey, while shelling continued in the central province of Homs.
The violence took place as opposition activists called for protests after Friday prayers to support arming the rebellion.
Saudi Arabia and Qatar back the idea of arming the rebels, but Western powers have so far rejected the idea for fear of escalating the conflict.
Activists near Damascus said troops had intensified their attacks in dissident strongholds across the country, after the UN team arrived in Syria to discuss ways to deploy monitors to supervise the April 10 deadline for the withdrawal of forces.
According to the plan outlined by UN-Arab League envoy Kofi Annan, both sides should observe a ceasefire within 48 hours of April 10, paving the way for talks to end the conflict in which an estimated 9,000 people have died, according to the UN.
Syria has expressed concerns about the return of rebels to the streets once troops withdraw from certain areas, said a Western diplomat based in Beirut.
'That is why Syria's UN ambassador, Bashar Jaafari, made it clear ... on Thursday that Damascus wants a clear commitment from Annan that once the government ends violence the other parties will do the same and will not try to fill the vacuum caused by the withdrawal,' the diplomat told dpa.
Annan's spokesman said Thursday Damascus had informed the UN that troops have started pulling out of some conflict areas ahead of the ceasefire deadline.
Meanwhile, Turkey was growing increasingly concerned about the influx of refugees.
Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu on Friday invited UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon to send representatives to view first hand the growing humanitarian crisis on the Turkey-Syria border, as the number of refugees from Syria soars.
Davutoglu told Ban over phone that 'the Syrian Army is conducting military operations with helicopters close to the Turkish border and that during the previous 24 hours more than 2,500 Syrians had crossed into Turkey,' a ministry spokesman told dpa.
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