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MIDEAST > Syrian army’s fatal day, in ‘shaky’ truce

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Fifteen Syrian soldiers are laid to rest in this photo taken from state agency SANA.

Fifteen Syrian soldiers are laid to rest in this photo taken from state agency SANA.

Syria’s army yesterday reportedly suffered its deadliest day in a ceasefire when rebel fighters killed 20 troops, in the latest violation of the three-week truce the U.N. says both sides are flouting.

The rebels killed 15 soldiers -- including two colonels -- in a dawn ambush in the northern province of Aleppo, where two rebel fighters also died, said the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, Agence France-Presse reported. The ambush occurred near Al-Rai village, said the watchdog. Clashes near Damascus killed six troops and regime gunfire killed a civilian in southern Daraa, activists said.

The latest bloodshed comes a day after the United Nations accused both the regime and its opponents of violating the ceasefire that is part of a peace plan brokered by U.N.-Arab League envoy Kofi Annan. U.N. peacekeeping chief Herve Ladsous said Syrian troops have kept heavy weapons in cities, and that both the government and rebels have violated the truce.

He also said U.N. members had so far offered only 150 military observers for the 300-strong planned force and that Syria had refused visas for three proposed monitors. But Syrian foreign ministry spokesman Jihad Makdisi denied visa requests had been turned down. Ladsous said 24 monitors were currently in place. Meanwhile, the head of the U.N. mission to Syria said yesterday his observers were having a “calming effect” on the ground but admitted the ceasefire was “shaky” and not holding. “This is not easy and we are seeing -- by the action, by explosions, by firing -- that the ceasefire is really a shaky one. It’s not holding,” Major General Robert Mood said.

Turkey did not ask NATO to take action: Official

NATO has not received any requests from Turkey to use Chapter 4 or Chapter 5 of the alliance in Syria in respect to border violence, Washington’s Senior Director for European affairs Elizabeth Sherwood-Randall said, according to daily Hürriyet. Article 5 of NATO counts an attack on a member country as one made against the entire alliance. Responding to a question on whether the U.S. will support the idea of a NATO operation to Syria, Sherwood-Randall said that there is an ongoing discussion among NATO members on this issue.

May/03/2012

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