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Terrorism & Security

Syria vows to execute 'terrorists' after worst day of violence

Human rights groups estimate that at least 110 Syrians were killed yesterday, which would be the highest single-day death toll in the nine-month uprising.

By Correspondent / December 20, 2011

Pro-regime protesters gather during a rally in Damascus, Syria, Monday. Syria signed an Arab League initiative Monday that will allow Arab observers into the country as part of peace deal that aims to end the nation's 9-month-old uprising.

Muzaffar Salman/AP

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Syria has announced it will execute "terrorists" and anyone who distributes weapons, just a day after Damascus publicly committed to an Arab League peace plan – a move that analysts and the opposition say is a stalling tactic.

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Yesterday also marked the deadliest day of violence since Syria's uprising began in mid-March. Damascus has long insisted that such violence has been committed by "terrorist" gangs attacking Syrian forces and civilians. Today Syrian state TV announced that the government has enacted a new law imposing the death penalty against "terrorists" and anyone distributing weapons for terrorist activities, CNN reports. The new law also imposes a life sentence of hard labor for arms trafficking.

According to the London-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, some 70 Syrian Army deserters were shot as they attempted to defect to the rebels, reports BBC News. "They were killed while trying to run away from their military positions on the way between the villages of Kensafra and Kefer Quaid, in Zawyia Mountain, in Idlib district," the Observatory said. The Syrian Revolution General Commission, a rebel coalition, put the number killed at 72.

Both the Observatory and the rebel coalition also say that some 40 others were killed in violence across Syria – including three government soldiers in Idlib and nine people each in the key rebel cities of Deraa and Homs. The estimates put Monday's death toll at 110 or more, which would be the highest single-day tally during the nine-month uprising. The BBC notes that the claims could not be confirmed due to Syria's ban on foreign journalists.

Yesterday's violence starkly contrasts with Syria's signing yesterday of an Arab League peace deal, which allows international monitors into the country. But analysts doubt Syria's commitment. The BBC's Jim Muir writes, "Only by force has [the government] been able to maintain some kind of control over many places. … If that iron grip is relaxed, those areas could slide immediately out of control, leaving only Damascus and Aleppo more or less with the regime."

Andrew Tabler of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy underscored the risk President Bashar al-Assad faces if he withdraws his troops, reports The Jerusalem Post.   

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