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Report: Syrian cities free of 'terrorists'

Aug. 17, 2011 at 11:15 AM   |   Comments

LATAKIA, Syria, Aug. 17 (UPI) -- The Syrian regime said troops rid Dier Ezzor and the Ramel neighborhood of Latakia of "terrorist groups" that threatened citizens' safety.

The Syrian Arab News Agency said security forces left Dier Ezzor and were withdrawing from the Ramel neighborhood after "putting an end to the armed terrorist groups who terrified the safe citizens by their criminal acts."

CNN reported, however, the Local Coordination Committees of Syria said a representative in Latakia indicated troops loyal to President Bashar Assad only relocated their vehicles.

The LLC said gunfire was heard sporadically in Latakia Wednesday morning and snipers were nested on the rooftops. Many residents have fled. As of Wednesday, at least 40 people died in five days.

At least five people died in Latakia Tuesday, one resident told CNN. Residents have not had electricity or water for several days.

Assad has said he wants to initiate reforms, but has sent his troops to cities to protect citizens from "armed thugs" bent on harm.

Elsewhere, a man standing on his balcony in Jabal al-Zawiya was killed Wednesday during military and security operations, the London-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.

A Jabal al-Zawiya resident told CNN that the military fortified its presence in the city.

"I don't know if I can get outside of the city now -- military is everywhere," he said.

The U.N. Relief and Works Agency, which provides assistance to Palestinian refugees, expressed "grave concern" over reports of heavy gunfire from Syrian security forces into the Ramel refugee camp and other areas.

"Reports from various sources indicate deaths and casualties among the Palestinian refugee population, although poor communications make it impossible to confirm the exact number of dead and injured," the agency said in a statement.

The crackdown on demonstrators calling for Assad's ouster and political changes sparked outrage in the international community, including the United States, and Syria's neighbors.

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez and Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad criticized the "imperialist aggression" in Syria, saying they would redouble their efforts to restore peace, the Venezuelan Foreign Ministry said Tuesday.

Syria's assault on Latakia is a "crime against humanity," a senior Palestinian official said as 10,000 Palestinians fled the city.

Assad's regime has "lost rationality," Yasser Abed Rabbo, an adviser to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, told Voice of Palestine Radio Tuesday as U.N. officials said they had no information on the whereabouts of the Latakia Palestinians.

Activists said many fled for the countryside or for Aleppo, Syrian's second-largest city, to the northeast.

Abbas spokesman Nabil Abu Rudeineh said: "We urge the Syrian authorities to stop the attack on the refugee camp immediately. It is unacceptable -- we cannot accept it."

Latakia Palestinians live in an unofficial refugee camp established in 1956 in the city after Palestinians fled or were expelled from their homes during the fighting at the creation of Israel.

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