Officials killed in Syria's Idlib province

Two judicial officers killed by gunmen as Egypt recalls its ambassador and China says a peaceful solution is possible.

    Gunmen have opened fire on a car carrying a senior Syrian state prosecutor and a judge in the northwest province of Idlib, killing both of them and their driver, state media says.

    State news agency SANA said on Sunday that Idlib provincial state prosecutor Nidal Ghazal and Judge Mohammed Ziadeh were killed instantly in the attack.

    Idlib has for months been the scene of intense clashes between troops loyal to President Bashar al-Assad and armed opposition groups.

    The assassinations came a day after SANA said armed men shot dead Jamal al-Bish, member of the city council of the nearby northern city of Aleppo, Syria's commercial capital. SANA said he was killed outside the city, a centre of support for Assad that has been relatively quiet since the uprising began.

    In Damascus, a funeral was held on Sunday for a man killed a day earlier when security forces fired bullets and tear gas at thousands of people marching in a funeral procession that turned into one of the largest protests in the capital.

    Security forces maintained a heavy presence to prevent Sunday's burial of Samer al-Khatib from turning into another anti-Assad demonstration, according to opposition activists.

    They said police cars and jeeps carrying "shabiha", armed men loyal to Assad. patrolled Mazzeh while secret police agents spread out on foot, stopping people at random and checking their identification cards, according to the activists.

    "Walking in Mazzeh now carries the risk of arrest. The area is quiet and even the popular food shops in Sheikh Saad are empty," activist Moaz al-Shami said, referring to a main street.

    Ambassador recalled

    Activist groups had called for a one-day strike in Damascus to express support for other cities in revolt. But residents said most businesses stayed open as usual. However, activist Mohammed Shami said many shops were shut in Mazzeh as well as in the Barzeh, Qaboun, Kfar Souseh and Joubar districts.

    On the international front, Egypt became the latest country to withdraw its ambassador from Syria.

    Mohammed Amr, the foreign minister "summoned the Egyptian ambassador to Damascus ... and it was decided that the ambassador will remain in Cairo until further notice," Amr Rushdi, an Egyptian foreign ministry spokesman, said in a statement on Sunday.

    Tunisia, Libya, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and other Arab nations have already reduced ties with Damascus.

    Syria faces mounting international condemnation over its crackdown on dissent which the opposition says has killed more than 7,000 people. Sweeping sanctions have been imposed on the country by the EU, US and the Arab League.

    But Damascus still has the support of its allies Russia and China, who have twice vetoed UN Security Council resolutions condemning the violence.

    In a commentary on Sunday, the Chinese state news agency Xinhua said a peaceful solution to the crisis was still possible.

    "China believes, as many others do, there is still hope the Syria crisis can be resolved through peaceful dialogue between the opposition and the government, contrary to some Western countries' argument that time is running out for talks in Syria," Xinhua said, a day after Chinese Vice Foreign Minister met Assad for talks in damascus..


    SOURCE: Al Jazeera and agencies


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