In a turnaround, the Arab League announced that President Bashar al-Assad has three more days to stop the bloody crackdown against protesters or face suspension and economic sanctions. Wednesday was the day the 22-member Arab League had originally given Assad’s regime to end the violence by withdrawing troops and ceasing to fire on protesters. Said Sheik Hamad Bin Jassim Jabr al-Thani of Qatar:
“What is happening in Syria is very sad to all of us. We must take difficult decisions and force Syria to respect its obligations.”
“We should stop wasting time while people are getting killed.”
Qatar’s foreign minister also said that “we are almost at the end of the line” as far as seeking a diplomatic solution to the unrest in Syria. The League said that it will send international observers to Syria, if Assad’s regime agrees to the League’s plan.
Syria itself boycotted the Arab League’s meeting. It had voted against the ultimatum the League placed on Assad’s government on Saturday, as had Lebanon and Yemen; Iraq had abstained.
Since the Arab League called on Syria to end the violence on November 2nd, the Local Co-ordination Committees (LCC) says that 376 people had been killed, 26 children among them. Just on Wednesday, activists report that 14 soldiers and 17 civilians were killed.
Syria holds that it has followed the League’s plan, offering an amnesty to protesters who lay down their weapons and setting 1,730 prisoners free; the Arab League says that tens of thousands remain in detention.
Embassies Attacked in Syria
The League announced its decision after foreign ministers met in Rabat, the capital of Morocco. After the meeting, angry crowds in Damascus attacked the embassies of Morocco and the United Arab Emirates in Damascus with eggs and rocks. Morocco has recalled its ambassador, according to the AFP. Just hours before, France has recalled its ambassador to Paris and closed its consulates in Aleppo and Latakia. The US has already recalled its ambassador, Robert Ford, a few weeks ago over “threats” to his personal safety. The US embassy remains open; it and the French embassy were both attacked earlier this year.
The embassies of Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Turkey were all also attacked on Saturday after the Arab League. Turkey, which shares a border with Syria, has been heightening its criticism of its former ally.
Army Defectors Stage Assault
Defectors from the Syrian army staged their boldest move on Wedesday, attacking a large air force intelligence complex in Harasta in the Damascus suburbs with machine guns and heavy weaponry. The Free Syrian Army had staged an assault on Harasta on Tuesday and co-ordinated army defections, so soldiers were able to flee with their weapons.
These assaults are signs that the uprising in Syria is edging closer and closer to civil war. Assad’s brother, Mahar, and members of their minority Alawite faith (a Shiite sect) control the army, which is made up of mostly Sunni Muslims — and they have been defecting in greater and greater numbers.
Over 3,500 have died since the protests began in the southern city of Dara’a in mid-March. The Syrian government has steadfastly claimed that foreign conspirators and Muslims are responsible for the unrest and said that over 1,100 members of the army and police have been killed.
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