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March 21, 2023

Syrian troops shell Houla again, activists say

Syrian rebels set Friday truce deadline.

Syrian forces shelled Houla early Thursday, opposition activists said, days after shadowy men went door-to-door in the town, slaughtering families with knives and guns, CNN reports.The attacks started shortly after United Nations observers left the town, said a local resident whom CNN is not naming for safety reasons. Government troops fired dozens of mortars and rockets, killing two people, opposition activists said. An additional young boy was killed by sniper fire, according to the London-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.CNN cannot confirm death tolls or reports of violence from Syria because the government limits access to the country by foreign journalists. The reported attacks highlight a conflict that has spiraled out of control as the call for President Bashar al-Assad’s ouster that began in March 2011 has devolved into a brutal crackdown against the protesters by the government.In the massacre in Houla on Friday, most of the more than 100 victims killed were children and women, sparking international outrage that led Western nations to expel Syrian diplomats in a coordinated move against the regime.The United States, the Netherlands, Australia, Britain, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Spain, Bulgaria, Turkey and Canada announced that they are expelling Syrian diplomats.On the other hand, a Syrian rebel commander says his forces will abandon a cease-fire agreement with the government on Friday if President Bashar al-Assad fails to abide by the truce and other terms of a U.N.-backed peace plan, the Voice of America informs. In an Internet statement published Thursday, Free Syrian Army Colonel Qassim Saadeddine gave Assad a deadline of noon Friday local time to start acting on commitments made to international peace envoy Kofi Annan. The rebel commander said his forces would no longer be bound by the Annan peace plan if the Syrian president fails to comply.

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