Cabinet call on displaced from Jisr al-Shaghour violence to return

The government on Tuesday called on displaced residents of Jisr al-Shaghour who fled escalating violence in the town to return home.

The Minister of Information Adnan Mahmoud said “calm and security” had returned to the town which saw heavy casualties in recent days according to widespread media reports.

The minister told SANA he had asked the Syrian Red Crescent to request its Turkish counterpart make arrangements for their return as “all necessary needs will be provided to secure the return, including medical aid for the patients and the injured.”

An army source told Tishreen newspaper life was returning to normal in the town as the military took back street after street.

The army units also helped civilian inhabitants returning to their homes which they left to escape death and vandalism acts,” the source said.

The same newspaper also quoted troops being treated in Aleppo hospital as saying that militants they fought in Jisr al-Shaghour used children as human shields.

But the call for residents to return home may not be heeded, as locals told AFP the army was heading towards the nearby town of Maraat al-Numaan, where it says “terrorist groups” that fled Jisr are heading.

On state television earlier in the week the government claimed an arms dealer had been killed in Maraat, who it said was supplying weapons to “armed groups” in Jisr al-Shaghour.

Turkey urges Syria to end crackdown

Turkey’s Anatolian news agency said Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan called President Bashar al-Assad and urged him to work to end violence and draw up a timetable of reform.

But Turkey’s Deputy Prime Minister Cemil Cicek said in a television interview that Assad initiated the phone call to congratulate Mr. Erdogan on his party’s victory in elections Sunday.

Turkey says about 8,500 Syrians have so far entered Turkey near its southwestern border with Syria.

The call came shortly after US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton accused Iran of supporting the Syrian government in its crackdown on the ongoing uprising.

Despite the US imposing sanctions on a branch of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard as part of a round of sanctions targeting top Syrian officials in April, no evidence of direct involvement of Iranian agents has been produced by critics of the Syrian government.

Pro-government Damascenes carry huge Syrian flag on march

Thousands of supporters of President Assad carried a two kilometer-long Syrian flag in a rally through central Damascus today.

Rally-goers observed a minute’s silence for the "souls of the martyrs and military personnel" killed in the recent violence.

The flag was created by young Syrians, SANA reported, as part of a youth movement called "Raise with us the biggest Syrian flag".

"The work is on behalf of the Syrian people, all sectors, all classes," said campaign press officer Rabiah Deiba, adding that the flag cost about SYP 1m (USD 21,000) which came in the form of donations from young people across Syria.

The flag will eventually fly from the top of Mount Qassioun overlooking Damascus.

Syria Today (Syria)