US: Assad deploying troops despite withdrawal call

American ambassador to Syria Ford posts satellite images on Facebook depicting Syrian artillery, tanks deploying in civilian areas; UN's Ban condemns Syria for fresh assault, demands end of military operations.

April 7, 2012 12:28
2 minute read.
Syria satellite photo

Syria satellite photos 370. (photo credit: Courtesy)


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The United States released satellite images on Friday that it said showed Syria has artillery poised to hit residential areas and has moved some forces from one town to another despite calls for a withdrawal.

Robert Ford, the US ambassador to Syria, posted the images on Facebook in what seemed an effort to pressure Syrian President Bashar Assad to pull back forces as called for in a peace plan devised by former UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan.

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The images were marked with arrows and tank symbols that Ford said indicated the presence of armored vehicles.

Ford said the images showed the withdrawal of tanks from Dael in Deraa province as well as from Taftanaz, a village east of Idlib city in Idlib province.

However, Ford said "the Syrian government simply moved some armored vehicles out of Taftanaz to the nearby town of Zirdana."

For more satellite images, visit the US embassy's official Facebook message here.

UN criticizes Syrian government for attacks on civilians

Meanwhile Friday, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon sharply criticized the Syrian government on Friday for its latest attacks on civilians and demanded that it keep its pledge to halt all military operations, Ban's press office said in a statement.

"(Ban) strongly condemns the latest escalation of violence," the statement said. "He deplores the assault by the Syrian authorities against innocent civilians, including women and children, despite the commitments by the Government of Syria to cease all use of heavy weapons in population centers."

"The 10 April timeline to fulfill the Government's implementation of its (ceasefire and troop withdrawal) commitments, as endorsed by the Security Council, is not an excuse for continued killing," it said.

At least 27 Syrian soldiers, rebels and civilians were killed in violence on Friday, opposition activists said, four days before an April 10 deadline to stop the use of heavy weapons and withdraw troops from towns agreed by President Bashar Assad as part of a UN-backed peace plan.

UN-Arab League envoy Kofi Annan has said the government and opposition must stop fighting at 6 a.m. local time on April 12, if Damascus meets its deadline 48 hours earlier to pull back troops from cities and cease using heavy weapons.

"The Syrian authorities remain fully accountable for grave violations of human rights and international humanitarian law," Ban's statement said. "These must stop at once."

"The Secretary-General demands that the Government of Syria immediately and unconditionally cease all military actions against the Syrian people," it said.

The UN Security Council, including China and Syria's staunch ally, Russia, on Thursday unanimously endorsed the deadlines for an end to the Syria conflict and warned Damascus that it would consider "further steps" if it failed to live up to its commitments.

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