News / Middle East

Syrian President Offers Opponents General Amnesty

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, in Damascus (file photo)
Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, in Damascus (file photo)

Syrian state television has announced that President Bashar al-Assad is offering government opponents general amnesty.

Facing a tide of protests, Mr. Assad's offer Tuesday extends to members of varied political movements including the outlawed Muslim Brotherhood.

In response to the announcement, U.S. State Department spokesman Mark Toner said the Obama administration recently has seen very little "concrete action" from Mr. Assad.

Toner said that the Syrian government's legitimacy is "fading" as government forces continue to meet peaceful protests with a crackdown.

Activists say Syria's military forces have fired heavy machine guns and artillery in the country's center in operations against anti-government protesters.

Tuesday's continued attacks in Rastan are likely to add more casualties to the death toll from the military crackdown.

Syrian rights activists have said the crackdown in the center of the country has killed at least 15 civilians and injured dozens of others since Sunday.

Government forces backed by tanks, artillery and helicopters continue operations in the cities of Talbiseh, Rastan and other central communities where residents have staged anti-government protests in recent days.

Rights groups said three civilians were killed Monday in Talbiseh.  Residents also found the bodies of two people thought to have been killed by Syrian troops in Homs, Syria's third-largest city.

Witness reports in Syria, as well as official accounts, are difficult to verify independently because the government barred most international journalists from the country soon after the unrest began in March.

Syrian opposition activists have been protesting almost daily since March for democratic reforms and an end to President Bashar al-Assad's 11-year autocratic rule.  Rights groups say Mr. Assad's security forces have killed more than 1,000 people and arrested 10,000 more in a campaign to crush the uprising.

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