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Anti-government protesters rally in northern Syria, violence ongoing as AL mandate expires

01-21-2012 08:46 BJT

DAMASCUS, Jan. 20 (Xinhua) -- Around 5,000 people staged anti- government protests Friday in Syria's northern province of Idlib as chaotic incidents took place in other parts of Syria.

About 5,000 people took part in anti-government protests in Idlib and its suburbs on Friday, a source in Idlib told Xinhua on condition of anonymity.

The protests only lasted for half an hour, the source said, adding that anti-government protesters stage rallies every week in that troubled area.

"Armed men" took over the national hospital in Idlib and took photos of the injured people to send them later to satellite TV stations, portraying them as victims of the government crackdown, said the source.

The remarks, however, couldn't be independently verified.

Meanwhile, the private Sham FM radio reported that an explosive device went off in Ariha area near Idlib, causing little damage.

In central Homs province, another hub of armed insurgency, border guards thwarted Friday an attempt of smuggling weapons from neighboring Lebanon through the border area of Tahunat Halat, the report added.

Also in Homs, nine gunmen were killed while planting an explosive device which went off during the planting process at Bab Sba'a neighborhood, according to the report.

Another explosive device went off at the Salah El-Din area in northern province of Aleppo, leaving two law-enforcement members injured, the report said, adding that anther device was detonated Friday at a house in coastal Latakia city. The owner of the house was killed in the blast, the report added.

In the meantime, the state-TV reported that crowds of Syrians staged pro-government rallies in several areas across Syria to express support to embattled President Bashar al-Assad, who is facing mounting international pressures.

The Syrian government said in December 2011 before the arrival of Arab League (AL) monitors that more than 2,000 army and security personnel were killed during the months-old unrest. The United Nations puts the overall toll in Syria at more than 5,400, with at least 400 killed since the observers arrived.

Violence shows no sign of abating as the mandate of Arab monitors expired on Thursday evening.

Qatar, which leads the AL ministerial committee concerned with the Syrian crisis, said the Arab observer mission has failed. Qatar Emir Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa al Thani said in excerpts of an interview released last week that he favored sending Arab troops to Syria to stop the violence there, citing the observers' failure to curb the escalating violence in the Middle East nation.

The emir's remarks were flatly rejected by the Syrian government. The Syrian foreign ministry said in a statement that Syria "rejects all kinds of foreign intervention in its affairs, under any title, and would confront any attempt to infringe upon Syria's sovereignty and integrity of its territories."

The emir became the first Arab leader to publicly suggest military intervention in Syria and the proposal has not been echoed by any other members of the AL.

Head of the Arab observer mission in Syria Moustafa al-Dabi will submit his report to Arab foreign ministers at their upcoming meeting on Sunday. The ministers will decide whether to seek an agreement from Damascus to extend the mission for another month.

On Thursday, a senior NATO official denied that the alliance has any intention of direct military intervention in Syria.

"There is no planning and we are not thinking about an intervention," General Knud Bartels, the head of NATO's Military Committee, said after a two-day meeting of NATO military chiefs.

He said that nations from NATO's Mediterranean Dialogue, a forum which gathers Algeria, Egypt, Israel, Jordan, Mauritania, Morocco and Tunisia, expressed concerns about the upheaval in the region, but "there was no discussion at all of a military intervention."

Editor:Zhang Hao |Source: Xinhua

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