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Syrian forces take rebel stronghold near Turkey
The LCC said four civilians were killed in the government shelling while the Observatory said 10 soldiers were killed when their checkpoint was attacked by defectors.
Both groups said that bodies of six people were found Tuesday near the village of Maaret Shoureen in Idlib province. The LCC said Syrian troops stopped the six who were in an ambulance, ordered them out of the vehicle and then shot them dead. Two of the people from the ambulance had been wounded in the shelling earlier.
Earlier this year, Assad’s forces began major military operations to retake rebel-held areas, starting with an attack that recaptured several suburbs of the capital Damascus and followed by the offensive in Homs. The operation in Idlib province, of which Idlib is the provincial capital, is the latest.
An amateur video posted online Tuesday but was said to have been taken three days ago showed several army tanks from a distance in a major street around Idlib. An activist was heard saying that tanks are deploying around Idlib in preparation to storm it.
The U.N. refugee agency said 230,000 Syrians have fled their homes since the uprising against Assad’s regime began last year. The U.N. says more than 7,500 people have been killed in the past 12 months.
Panos Moumtzis, the UNHCR’s coordinator for Syria said 30,000 people have already fled to Turkey, Lebanon and Jordan and “on a daily basis hundreds of people are still crossing into neighboring countries.”
Moumtzis said at least 200,000 people were also displaced within the country, according to the Syrian Arab Red Crescent.
Assad has made a series of gestures toward reform to try to allay the crisis, but his opponents say his efforts are too little, too late. On Tuesday, he set nationwide parliamentary elections for May 7. The vote was initially to take place in March but was postponed after last month’s referendum on the country’s new constitution that allowed new political parties to run.
In the past, the National Progressive Front, which includes Assad’s ruling Baath party and 11 other closely associated groups, had dominated elections and the 250-member legislature.
However, it’s unclear how an election can take place as a deadly spiral of violence continues to shake Syria.
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