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Fierce Crackdown Ahead Of UN Cease-Fire Deadline In Syria

April 05, 2012

Syrian troops have launched fierce artillery and sniper attacks on opposition-dominated suburbs of Damascus -- the most violent attacks near the capital since the year-old uprising began.

There also were reports of intensified government attacks elsewhere in Syria -- including village-to-village sweeps by Syria's army -- ahead of the regime's promised troop withdrawal from populated areas by April 10.

Earlier, UN-Arab League envoy Kofi Annan said he expected the Syrian government and opposition to implement a cease-fire by April 12 -- 48 hours after government troops are due to withdraw from populated areas.

Damascus claims the withdrawals have begun.

But in addition to the reports of intensified violence, there has been a spike in the number of refugees fleeing Syria.

Ankara says more than 1,000 crossed into Turkey in the past 24 hours -- the most ever in a single day -- bringing the total number there to 21,000. Many also are fleeing to Jordan.

Meanwhile, a UN advance team is expected in Damascus to discuss the possible deployment of 250 UN cease-fire monitors under Annan's peace plan provided troop withdrawals are confirmed.

Rights groups have reported the deaths of scores of people in fighting in the last week.

In other news, the UN's 15-member Security Council could reportedly adopt a presidential statement demanding that Damascus adhere to its deadline of April 10 to withdraw its forces.

Annan told the council on April 2 that Damascus had accepted the April 10 deadline, and he urged the council to support the deadline.

The United States, which holds the council presidency for April, drafted the statement in response.

Presidential statements, unlike resolutions, are nonbinding but require the unanimous support of the council.

Russia and China have vetoed two resolutions since the government crackdown began over a year ago.

Annan will also brief the 193-member General Assembly on the situation in Syria on April 5 via video link.

With reporting by AFP, Reuters, dpa, and AP


Copyright (c) 2012. RFE/RL, Inc. Reprinted with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave., N.W. Washington DC 20036.

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