Tens of thousands gather in support of government

Huge crowds gathered waving flags and holding pictures of President Bashar al-Assad in several cities and towns across Syria on Tuesday.

Thousands gathered in Damascus, Aleppo, Idleb, Hasakeh, Lattakia and the southern city of Dera’a, in an apparent show of support for Syrian President Assad and the government.

The rallies came a day after a speech by President Assad offered a plan for reform which was rejected by the opposition.

Among other slogans, the rally-goers chanted "the people want Bashar Assad!" and released black, white and red balloons — the colors of the Syrian flag.

Assad’s speech at Damascus University on Monday was only his third public appearance since the uprising began in March.

Syria agrees to widen access for ICRC

Syria has agreed to give the Red Cross/Crescent greater access to areas of the country caught up in violence, the humanitarian agency said on Tuesday.

Jakob Kellenberger, president of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), said in a statement that two days of talks with senior Syrian officials in Damascus on humanitarian issues had been “frank and operational.”

"The Syrian officials were receptive and agreed to give the ICRC and the Syrian Arab Red Crescent wider access to areas of unrest," Kellenberger said. "I will closely monitor how this understanding is put into practice."

Kellenberger met Prime Minister Adel Safar and Foreign Minister Walid al-Moualem, as well as the president of the Syrian Arab Red Crescent, Abd al-Rahman al-Attar, and Red Crescent volunteers, the ICRC said.

President orders new general amnesty

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad issued a general amnesty on Tuesday, a day after he promised wide-ranging reforms to counter a three-month uprising.

The amnesty covers all crimes committed up until June 20, state news agency SANA announced.

President Assad has issued a decree granting a general amnesty for crimes committed before the date of June 20, 2011,” it said, without giving details.

The president previously issued an amnesty for political prisoners on May 31, which included many members of the banned Muslim Brotherhood.

Hundreds of detainees were released, according to rights groups.

UN says northern towns emptied by violence

The UN refugee agency (UNHCR) says its representatives went on a government-organised visit of the town of Jisr al-Shughour on Monday.

The UNHCR spokesman, Adrian Edwards, said on Tuesday that 500 to 1,000 people a day have been crossing from northern Syria into Turkey since June 7 and more than 10,000 Syrian refugees are being sheltered by Turkish authorities in four border camps.

Syria State TV has aired numerous interviews with residents of Jisr al-Shughour, who say they welcome the army’s presence in the town. The president, in his speech on Monday, said refugees should return to the area.

Villages were increasingly empty from around 40km away from Jisr al-Shughour, and there was no evidence of people working in the fields, the UNHCR said.

Syrian refugees spoke to our team about their fears and trauma. Many had lost family members, who they said were either killed, missing or in hiding,” UNHCR said in a statement.

Syria Today (Syria)