Syria peace deal close to collapse amid tank and mortar fire
Syrian activists refuse to talk with President Bashar al-Assad about anything except showing him the exit, and plan to test his commitment to a Syria peace deal by amassing large protests.
Tripoli, north Lebanon
An Arab League plan to end eight months of violence in Syria appeared close to collapse Thursday less than 24 hours after the Syrian regime agreed to implement the proposal. As many as 20 people were reportedly killed in the flashpoint city of Homs in central Syria and fighting was also reported in the town of Tel Kalakh near the border with Lebanon, according to opposition activists.Skip to next paragraph
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The renewed violence appeared to shatter hopes that the Arab League deal would prove to be a breakthrough after months of trying to end internal unrest that has now left more than 3,000 people dead since mid-March – Syrian activists say the death toll is as high as 4,000.
The proposal called on Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's government to withdraw its military forces from cities, release all detainees imprisoned since the uprising began, and to begin a dialogue with members of the Syrian opposition. The plan offered no deadline for its implementation, which raised skepticism among Syrian opposition activists that it would be honored.
“Assad is a master at playing for time. He has no intention of implementing this proposal because he knows it would be the beginning of the end for him,” says Ahmad, a young Syrian dissident who has been living in hiding in the north Lebanon city of Tripoli since August. “I can assure you that if the army really withdraws from the cities, the protestors will be at the gates of Assad’s palace the next day.”
Opposition activists say they will redouble their efforts to mobilize large crowds in the coming days to test Mr. Assad’s intentions. Ahmad said that the opposition would be willing to talk with the Syrian authorities only after troops have been removed from the cities and the detainees are released. However, he added, there would only be one topic up for discussion.
“Yes, we will sit with them but the only thing to discuss is the transition of power from Bashar al-Assad,” says Ahmad, who is from the coastal city of Banias.