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Half Of Syria Peacekeeping Troops Sent Home

A vandalized poster of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in a trash container in the northern city of Aleppo.
UNITED NATIONS -- Peacekeeping chief Herve Ladsous has announced that the monitoring mission in Syria is sending half of its unarmed observers back to their home countries.

Peacekeeping spokesperson Josephine Guerrero clarified that while the mission would keep 150 of the original 300 peacekeepers on the ground, the UN could not confirm the exact number being sent home as the total number of observers fluctuated from day to day.

The monitors have restricted their activities since June 15 due to escalating violence in the country after the shaky cease-fire they were sent to observe fell apart in days.

UN Security Council members have deliberated for weeks over whether their impact in the country is worth the risk to the peacekeepers.

On July 21, the Security Council extended the mission for an additional 30 days, with the U.S. strongly stating that it would be the final extension of the mission.

In recent days, the regime of President Bashar al-Assad has ramped up its efforts to crush the resistance.

Dozens of government tanks are reported to be converging on Syria's second largest city Aleppo.

Syrian civilians continue to flee from fighting around the country, with the UN refugee agency saying 300 people fled across the Turkish border overnight.

Turkish officials have announced that border gates with Syria will stay open to refugees, even though they are being closed to most trucks.

The international community has expressed fears the regime could use its stockpile of chemical weapons against its own people or neighboring countries.

Russia has told the Syrian government that it is unacceptable to threaten to use chemical weapons.

Damascus acknowledged on July 23 it has chemical weapons and said it would not use them to crush rebels but could use them against any outside forces that intervene.
With reporting by AFP, AP, and Reuters
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