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March 23, 2023

Activists report attacks as Syrian government claims pullout

Syrian activists reported military attacks on two towns and no large-scale troop pullout Tuesday, the day President Bashar al-Assad was to halt the use of heavy weapons and withdraw his forces from urban areas under an internationally brokered truce, the Voice of America informs.The London-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said government forces shelled the central city of Hama and the northwestern town of Mareh while parts of Homs came under mortar fire. Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Moallem said Damascus had already begun withdrawing army units from some Syrian cities but that the U.N.-brokered cease-fire must start simultaneously with the deployment of the international observer mission. He was speaking in Moscow after talks with his Russian counterpart, Sergei Lavrov. On Monday, Syrian forces opened fire across two tense borders. The violence killed a television cameraman in Lebanon and at least two people at a refugee camp in Turkey. Activists reported more than 125 people killed since Sunday within Syria as forces loyal to Assad continue to shell buildings and shoot at residents of rebellious cities. Ankara has reacted angrily to an incident Monday in which Syrians were shot while seeking refuge in Turkey, with the Turkish Foreign Ministry spokesman warning that “necessary steps” will be taken if such incidents are repeated. The Turkish government strongly condemned Monday’s incident, accusing the Syrian military of firing on Syrian refugees after they crossed over into Turkey. The incident occurred at the Kilis refugee camp on the Syrian border. Turkish Foreign Ministry spokesman Selcuk Unal says it was an unprovoked attack.Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, speaking on a trip to China, said the incidents were a “clear violation” of its borders and that his country would “take the necessary measures” in response, BBC reports on the other hand.The deal brokered by Annan says Syria must begin pulling its troops out of population centers by Tuesday morning, with a full cease-fire by both sides within 48 hours.

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