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Over 70 killed across Syria ahead of Annan visit to Damascus


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Damascus, May 25: More than 70 people were killed across Syria on Friday, monitors said, as tens of thousands of protesters took to the streets and tanks were deployed in the country's second-largest city. The latest flare-up of violence occurred ahead of the visit of Kofi Annan, the UN-Arab League envoy to Syria who brokered a repeatedly-violated ceasefire last month, to Damascus early next week.

Over 50 civilians, including 13 children, were killed in army shelling of Houla, a town in the central province of Homs, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said. "It was a real massacre that took place and the UN observers are just staying silent," the head of the monitoring group, Rami Abdel Rahman, said over the telephone.

For the first time since the uprising against President Bashar al-Assad's regime erupted 14 months ago, army tanks rumbled through the city of Aleppo, said the Britain-based watchdog. It also said helicopter gunships went into action against rebels, strafing mountain villages in the Latakia area of northwestern Syria, near the Turkish border, injuring at least 20 people. At least four policemen were killed in clashes with rebels in Kansebba, in the same area, the Observatory added.

Hours after massive anti-regime rallies across Aleppo, tanks were deployed in the city, rumbling through the Kalasse and Bustan al-Kasr neighbourhoods after thousands attended a funeral, it said. Earlier the group reported that a young man was killed in Aleppo when troops fired with live rounds and tear gas on protesters in the city, where 12 massive anti-regime rallies took place on Friday. "Long live Syria! Down with Assad!" demonstrators chanted at the funeral, said the watchdog.


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