Syria toll rises to 25; monitors cheered in besieged town
Crowds in a Syrian town surrounded by government troops cheered Arab League monitors who visited Sunday as others fled the town on foot to escape the fighting inside.
Residents of Zabadani, about 50 km (30 miles) northwest of Damascus, lifted one of the monitors onto their shoulders and passed him around the crowd during Sunday’s visit. They told CNN that their water and electricity had been cut off for the past three days, and they showed off wounds they said had been inflicted by pro-government forces.
The monitors got a different reception from Syrian soldiers, who berated them as the soldiers carried off the body of one of their comrades they said had been shot by opposition forces.
The visit came as another 32 people were killed by government troops trying to crush a 10-month-old uprising against the rule of President Bashar al-Assad, according to the Local Coordination Committees of Syria, an opposition umbrella group. The toll included 13 in Homs, the scene of some of the worst fighting to date; 10 in the city of Idlib; and three people, inlcuding a child, in Hama.
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During a visit to neighboring Lebanon, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon delivered a blunt message to al-Assad: “Stop killing your people.” Meanwhile, al-Assad announced that he was granting amnesty to anti-government demonstrators for “all crimes committed” since the uprising began last March, Syrian state-run media reported.
In Zabadani, a CNN crew heading into the city with the Arab League monitors saw men, women and children trudging out of the city to get away from the fighting. When the monitors prepared to leave, many of the thousands who greeted the monitors in town urged them to stay, warning that attacks by government troops would resume once they left.
Some offered to show the monitors where Syrian tanks were hidden in the fields surrounding the city. Syria was required to pull heavy weaponry out of the cities under the agreement its signed with the Arab League in November, but Zabadani residents said the tanks pulled back only when the monitors were on their way.