Israeli Druze Ask for Safe Passage from Damascus

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JERUSALEM, Israel -- Families of Israeli Druze students studying in Damascus appealed to the International Red Cross to help their children leave the embattled Syrian capital and return to Israel.

The students, who live in the Golan Heights, were in Damascus in connection with their courses, YNet reported. They were having trouble securing safe passage home through the Quneitra border crossing on the Golan Heights, which is monitored by the United Nations.

"For the time being we cannot coordinate the students' return to Israel, but we will do so when it is possible from a security standpoint," YNet quoted Red Cross spokesman in Israel Ran Goldstein.
"The situation in Syria is deteriorating. Entire neighborhoods are cut off due to the fighting, and people have been forced to leave their homes and stay in some 60 schools. Just last week, we were told by our colleagues in Syria, some 18,000 Syrian refugees crossed into Lebanon," Goldstein said.

In a related matter, the Arab League on Sunday called for Syrian President Bashar Assad to step down.

Arab League Secretary-General Nabil Elaraby called for an end to the bloodshed.

"We have to realize that we are in a new and important phase that requires strong action to face the facts on the ground," Elaraby said, "at a time when [U.N. special envoy Kofi] Annan's plan did not achieve anything."

Member nations also voted to back a second attempt by the Palestinian Authority to secure unilateral recognition by the U.N. Last September, the U.S. vetoed the P.A.'s unilateral statehood bid in the Security Council.

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