Saturday, March 31, 2012

Syria says revolt over, army to pull out gradually

(Reuters) - Syria says the year-long revolt to topple President Bashar al-Assad is now over, but it will keep its forces in cities to "maintain security" until it is safe to withdraw in keeping with a U.N.-backed peace deal.

The agreement proposed by United Nations-Arab League special envoy Kofi Annan says the Syrian authorities must be first to withdraw troops and stop violence immediately.

The army kept up an offensive against opposition strongholds on Saturday, pummelling the Khalidiya district of Homs city.

"Mortars are falling every minute and the sounds of explosions are shaking the neighborhood," an activist report said. A child was killed by rocket fire in the al-Bayyada area and a man was killed in crossfire in clashes near a checkpoint.

Rebels battled army forces near a base in Jaramaneh in Damascus province. Five bodies bearing signs of torture were found near Maarat al-Noaman, the report said. A soldier was killed when rebels ambushed a troop carrier in Deraa province.

Despite the violence, Damascus says it has the upper hand. Read More