2012-04-05 / World

Syrian troops attack Damascus suburb

BEIRUT (AP) — Syrian troops launched a fierce assault on a Damascus suburb today, days ahead of a deadline for a U.N.-brokered cease-fire, with activists describing it as one of the most violent attacks around the capital since the year-old uprising began.

Activists in the suburb of Douma said snipers on 20 buildings were firing at “anything that moved” and residents had endured eight hours of shelling. They said soldiers marched into a main square behind detainees used as human shields.

The operation in Douma, along with other offensives around the country, bolstered the opposition’s claim that President Bashar Assad is only intensifying violence ahead of the April 10 deadline to start implementing the truce. Activists say Assad wants to make gains on the ground before the cease-fire is supposed to take effect.

French Foreign Minister Alain Juppe said he believes Assad “is deceiving us” when he promises to abide by the peace plan, which was brokered by former U. N. chief Kofi Annan.

“Can we be optimistic? I am not,” Juppe told reporters. He said if all the conditions of the cease-fire plan are not met, including the arrival of 200 observers, then “we must go back to the U.N. Security Council.”

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