Syria nears deal on Arab monitors, but Homs violence spikes
Syria 'responded positively' to an Arab plan to allow outside monitors, but the killing of more than 60 people in Homs over the past 24 hours raises doubts about the regime's sincerity.
On what some have characterized as one of the single worst days of violence in Syria's nearly nine-month uprising, President Bashar al-Assad's regime has responded positively to the Arab League’s demand to allow observers to enter the country.Skip to next paragraph
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But while Syrian officials have indicated their willingness to accept the Arab League plan – meant to end the increasingly violent stand-off between protesters and the Assad regime – they say they will not do so without certain conditions, which may cause the deal to fall through.
Among the stipulations, Syria has demanded that once it signs the agreement all sanctions against it are lifted and the Arab League deals with it in a neutral manner.
“The Syrian government has responded positively on the subject of signing the Arabic Protocol between Syria and the Arab League according to the common framework based on the Syrian understanding of this cooperation,” said Syrian Foreign Ministry spokesman Jihad Makdesi said yesterday, according to the Los Angeles Times.
Since Syria's uprising began in mid-March, at least 4,000 people have died in clashes that have intensified in recent weeks, with growing signs of an armed insurgency as low-level soldiers from the Syrian Army defect to the protesters' side. November saw the worst violence so far, with up to 950 killed, the L.A. Times reports.
And yesterday was one of the single deadliest days of the uprising, Al Jazeera reports, citing figures from the London-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. In Homs, which has become an epicenter for the uprising, at least 34 activists were kidnapped and killed by shabiha – armed gangs that are mainly Alawite, the offshoot of Shiite Islam that Assad's family and much of his regime adhere to.
But residents and activists said that the violence was hitting both sides, with more than 60 bodies in total being taken to hospitals in Homs, according to Al Jazeera. As with all reports of violence in Syria, which has tightened its borders since the uprisings began, independent observers have been unable to verify such reports.
Arab League chief Nabil Elaraby swiftly rebuffed Damascus' demands, and the Syrian opposition accused Assad's regime of wasting time and trying to trick Arab leaders into reversing punitive measures against Damascus.