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June 26, 2022

Syrian army cracks down on rebels in Damascus

Arab League cancels mission, Russia criticises the decision.

DAMASCUS – The Syrian army has moved to retake control of Damascus suburbs from rebel forces, activists say, according to the BBC. They say troops backed by tanks have been shelling rebel-held areas to the east and north of the city. Dozens of people have reportedly been killed in what activists describe as the fiercest fighting around the capital during the 10 month-uprising.

The major escalation came as the Arab League suspended its month-old monitoring mission in the country. On Saturday, Secretary General Nabil el-Arabi said: “Given the critical deterioration of the situation in Syria and the continued use of violence… it has been decided to immediately stop the work of the Arab League’s mission to Syria.” Activists said more than 2,000 troops and 50 tanks had been involved in an attack early on Sunday on eastern suburbs of Damascus, barely 5km from the city centre. There were similar reports from the mountain town of Rankous, about 30km to the north.

Rami Abdul Rahman, head of the UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, said the fighting was “the most intense near the capital since the uprising began”. “The Syrian regime is trying to finish the uprising militarily now that the case is being taken to the United Nations.”

Meanwhile, Russia’s foreign minister has criticized the Arab League’s decision to suspend its observer mission to Syria after an upsurge of violence that, according to human rights activists, killed at least 36 people across the country. Russian state media quoted Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov Sunday as saying he would support instead an increase in the number of observers there, Voice of America said.

Syria’s Interior Minister Mohammed al-Shaar vowed Saturday the crackdown would go on until the country is “clean of renegades and outlaws.” Arab League ambassadors are to meet later this week to make final decisions about the mission.

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