Syrian security forces have maintained their deadly attacks on protesters throughout a two- week period of observation by the Arab League, a top United Nations official said.
About 400 people have been killed since the Dec. 26 arrival of Arab League observers to monitor Syria’s implementation of an accord to end the crackdown on protests, UN political chief Lynn Pascoe told the 15-member Security Council in closed-door consultations yesterday.
President Bashar al-Assad yesterday vowed to use an “iron first” to resist what he described as foreign-backed efforts to divide his country, in his fourth national address since the uprising began in March. The UN estimates that more than 5,000 people have died.
At least 38 people were killed yesterday in Deir al-Zour, Homs, Qamishli, Idlib and in Hama, said the Local Coordination Committees, an activist group with members in Syria. The U.K.- based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, which also has a network of activists in the country, put the death toll at 27 yesterday. The observatory said three civilians and one army defector were killed in Hama today, while a strike was under way in Idlib over living conditions. Security forces opened fire on students rallying this morning in a suburb of the capital Damascus, it said.
Assad repeated his argument that the violence is a result of a “foreign conspiracy.” He said his priority is to restore security and that “terrorists” will be met with an “iron fist,” while denying that any orders had been given to security forces to fire on civilians.
Under an agreement with the Arab League, Syria’s government promised to withdraw military and security forces from urban areas, release political prisoners and allow observers into the country to monitor implementation of the accord.
Eleven of the league’s monitors were injured in an attack yesterday, Al Arabiya reported. Secretary-General Nabil el-Arabi condemned the “irresponsible acts and acts of violence” and said the Syrian government is responsible for the protection of its envoys.
Anwar Malek, an Algerian Arab League observer who resigned from his position because he said he found himself serving the Syrian government’s interests, told Al Jazeera the Arab League’s monitoring mission was not independent.
“What I saw was a humanitarian disaster,” Al Jazeera cited Malek as saying. “The regime is not just committing one war crime, but a series of crimes against its people,” he said.
Snipers are widespread and shoot at civilians, while people are being kidnapped and prisoners tortured, Al Jazeera cited Malek as saying. Security forces didn’t withdraw their tanks from the streets as the Syrian government claimed, but hid and then redeployed them after the observers left, he told the Doha- based news channel.
In a televised speech from Istanbul yesterday, Burhan Ghalioun, the leader of the Syrian National Council, an umbrella opposition group, called on Arab governments to increase pressure on Assad and urged the Arab League to raise the Syrian situation at the UN.
The Arab League imposed sanctions on Syria on Nov. 27. Efforts by the U.S. and the European Union, which also have imposed sanctions, for the UN Security Council to condemn the crackdown have been blocked by Russia and China.
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