More than 200 people were killed on Monday and Tuesday in Syria and 37 have been killed today, just on the eve of a visit on Thursday of international observers sent by the Arab League. The heavy death toll was reported by the activist group, the Local Coordination Committee in Syria; precise figures cannot be independently verified, as Al Jazeera and other media are restricted from reporting within the country. Speaking from Lebanon, the BBC’s Jim Muir said that the “surge in violence” could likely be connected to the imminent visit of Arab League monitors, with Syrian authorities “‘clearing up unfinished business.’”
The Syrian National Council, the main opposition group which is located outside the country, has called on the United Nations Security Council and the Arab League to discuss the growing violence in the northwest of Syria, in the Jabal al-Zawiya area in Idlib province near the Turkish border. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, which is based in London, said that most of those killed on Tuesday were army defectors. A member of the opposition in Idlib, Alaa El Din Al Youssef, is quoted in Al Jazeera as saying that what happened on Tuesday was a “massacre,” with some bodies burnt beyond recognition and other found beheaded with their hands tied. The day before, about 70 army defectors were shot dead were attempting to flee from a military base.
The death toll for today is likely to rise, as, according to reports, army reinforcements are arriving in Idlib and clashes are ongoing. The BBC‘s Muir also says that opposition forces may be seeking to “establish their presence to gain a foothold for further expansion.”
French foreign ministry spokesman Bernard Valero has said that what is going on in Syria is an “unprecedented massacre.”
While Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Muallem has said that the team of international observers will be “free” to move around the country, but this remains to be seen. The observers have a mandate for one month that can be extended, provided that both sides agree. Activists have dismissed the government’s decision to allow observers as “just a ploy.”
The Syrian regime has repeatedly claimed that the violence in the country has been caused by foreign conspirators and militants and “armed thugs.” The latter were accused today of abducting eight Iranian technicians from the city of Homs, a center of resistance. As Syrian blogger Maysaloon comments on
What were five Iranians doing in Homs when even foreign media aren’t allowed there for ‘security’ reasons? Something stinks #Syria
More than 5,000, including hundreds of children, have been killed in the uprising that began in Syria in mid-March. Thousands have fled across the border to Turkey and are living in refugee camps.
On Sunday night, Syrian authorities released US-born blogger Razan Ghazzawi on bail. She has been charged with “fomenting sectarian strife and spreading false information through a secret organisation,” for which she could face up to 15 years in prison. Ghazzawi is among the scores of bloggers and activists who have been arrested by the regime since the uprising began; she is to stand trial at an unspecified date.
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Photo taken earlier this year in Baniyas, Syria, by Syria-Frames-Of-Freedom