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> SYRIA

Assad's troops begin pullout from cities

BEIRUT (AP) -- Syrian troops began pulling out Tuesday from some calm cities and headed back to their bases a week ahead of a deadline to implement an international cease-fire plan, a government official said.

The claim could not immediately be verified. Activists near the capital Damascus denied troops were leaving their area. They said the day regime forces withdraw from the streets, Syria will witness massive protests to overthrow the government.

President Bashar Assad agreed recently to an April 10 deadline to implement international envoy Kofi Annan's truce plan. The proposal requires regime forces to withdraw from towns and cities and observe a cease-fire. Rebels are to follow by ceasing violence.

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> ISRAEL

Palestinians honor Helen Thomas' stand

JERUSALEM (AP) -- The top Palestinian envoy to the United States has honored longtime American journalist Helen Thomas for taking a stand against Israeli occupation, a senior Palestinian official said Tuesday.

Thomas' observation that Israelis should get "out of Palestine" forced her into retirement in 2010 and was denounced by the White House and her press corps colleagues.

Palestinians "are occupied and it's their land," she said.

Asked where Jews should go, she replied, "Poland, Germany and America and everywhere else."

Palestinians appreciated her position, and Maen Erekat, the Palestinian envoy to Washington, hosted Thomas at a dinner Sunday at his residence, said the official, speaking on condition of anonymity.