Friday, February 23, 2018

Syrian troops open fire in Homs as observers visit

BEIRUT — Syrian troops fired on protesters Monday in the restive city of Homs as Arab League observers toured the area to see whether President Bashar Assad's regime is abiding by its pledge to halt the 10-month-old crackdown on dissent, activists said.

It was not immediately clear whether the foreign observers witnessed the regime forces opening fire in the Khaldiyeh neighborhood of Homs. Several people were reported wounded.

The 165 foreign monitors are supposed to be ensuring that Syria complies with the Arab League plan stipulating the regime stop killing protesters, remove heavy weaponry, such as tanks, from all cities, free all political prisoners and allow in human rights organizations and foreign journalists. Syria agreed to the plan on Dec. 19.

However, the crackdown has not stopped and opposition activists say around 450 people have killed by the regime since observers began work on Dec. 21. On Monday, the British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said security forces shot dead four people around the country and returned the bodies of 10 other people to their families in several Homs neighborhoods.

Syrian state TV said Assad will deliver a speech at noon today addressing "local and international developments." Assad has made few public appearances since the uprising began, and it will be his first comments since Syria agreed to the Arab League peace plan last month.

Protests in Yemen

A new law granting immunity to Yemen's president and anyone who served in his authoritarian regime over the past 33 years sparked fresh violence Monday. The law passed late Sunday by the Cabinet just weeks before President Ali Abdullah Saleh is supposed to step down is part of a U.S.-backed effort to end the country's political quagmire. Thousands of protesters took to the streets across Yemen to reject the law and call for Saleh to stand trial.

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