Arab League head says Syrian army outside cities

Gunfire continues, snipers are still a threat, says Elaraby; armed Syrian rebels reportedly capture dozens of troops.

By REUTERS
January 2, 2012 15:42
1 minute read.
Arab League observers walking through protest

Arab League observers walking through protest. (photo credit: REUTERS/via Reuters Tv/Handout )

 
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CAIRO - Syria's military has withdrawn from residential areas and is on the outskirts of the country's cities, but gunfire continues and snipers are still a threat, the Arab League's Secretary General Nabil Elaraby said on Monday.

The United Nations says more than 5,000 people have been killed in a crackdown on protests which broke out against Syrian President Bashar Assad in March.

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Elaraby was speaking in Cairo as Arab League monitors gathered in Syria to check compliance with a peace plan. He said the League would report on the work of the monitors over the first week and decide if more were needed there.

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In the northern province of Idlib, armed Syrian rebels captured dozens of members of the security forces by seizing two military checkpoints, the opposition Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.

It said the army deserters also clashed with security forces at a third checkpoint, killing and wounding an unspecified number of troops loyal to Syrian President Bashar Assad.



Rami Abdelrahman, director of the British-based Observatory, said Monday's operation took place in the Jabal al-Zawiyah region of Idlib. It was not immediately clear how many people had been killed or captured by the rebels, he said.

The Syrian government bars most international journalists from operating in the country, making it difficult to verify accounts of incidents.

Meanwhile, an Assad-linked website, the Damas Post, reported Monday that the Syrian president was set to announce his intention to form a new government which will include opposition members.

The report added that the Syrian president was briefed by senior officials in the past three days regarding discussions with opposition members. Sources quoted in the report claimed that Assad will defend the Syrian army's actions, and stress the importance of domestic laws on protests.

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