Report: Syria Troops Pull Back From Central City of Hama

Soldiers deployed around Hama since late Saturday in wake of anti-Assad protests; witnesses says troops withdraw after arresting dozens.

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Syrian government troops have pulled back from positions around the central city of Hama, a report said early Monday.

Soldiers had deployed around the city of 650,000 late Saturday following protests by tens of thousands of people against President Bashar Assad, the opposition Local Coordination Committees of Syria told Al Jazeera news agency.

Anti-government protest in the Damascus suburb of Daraya.Credit: AP

The troops withdrew late Sunday, after arresting dozens of people in outlying neighborhoods of the city, unidentified witnesses were quoted as saying.

The opposition said secret police were patrolling the city and that authorities had carried out arrests in Hama amid heavy gunfire and increased troop presence.

Saturday's protests were the largest against the government since the unrest began three months ago, the Al Jazeera report said.

The crackdown in Hama came one day after Assad dismissed the governor when crowds started gathering in the provincial capital on Friday.

More than 1,365 civilians and 344 security personnel have been killed, according to local human rights groups, since the protests calling for Assad's ouster began in mid-March.

Al Jazeera reported Monday that troops had killed two protesters in a suburb of Damascus.
At least 10,000 people have been detained, according to human rights advocates. Reports of casualties and arrests cannot be independently verified because most foreign media have been banned from Syria.

Last month, Assad said a national dialogue would start soon to review new legislation including laws on parliamentary elections, allow the creation of political parties other than the ruling Baath Party and to consider changes to the constitution.

Protesters and Western diplomats have called Assad's promises for a national dialogue insufficient as the violent crackdown on the demonstrations continued.

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