Over 5,400 people have been killed in Syria since anti-government protests began against the regime of President Bashar al-Assad last March and despite the presence of a mission of monitors from the Arab League. An activist group, the Local Coordinating Committee, says that 135 people including 18 children were killed by security forces and the army on Thursday and Friday. Most were in the central city of Homs, an epicenter of the protests, but some were also killed in Hama and the southern city of Daraa. The New York Times quotes an unnamed activist who describes Homs as “completely paralyzed” by shelling; nobody, he says, “leaves his house unless it’s a real emergency, knowing that they’re risking their lives.”
It is impossible to verify the numbers of those who have died in Syria, as the government does not allow foreign journalists to report from within the country. But even Lt. Gen. Muhammad Ahmed al-Dabi of Sudan, the head of the Arab League mission who had earlier said that the observers had helped to “bring down the violence” in Syria,” stated on Friday that, just within the past few days, there had been a “very high escalation” of violence. He also added that “the situation at present, in terms of violence, does not help prepare the atmosphere” for negotiations.”
UN Security Council Drafts Resolution
On Friday, the United Nations Security Council moved closer to finally taking a definite stand on Syria when it discussed a draft resolution that would call for Assad to step down. The draft resolution contains the following points: The UN says that it condemns the “continued widespread and gross violations of human rights and fundamental freedoms by the Syrian authorities” and asserted its support of the Arab League’s attempt “to facilitate a political transition leading to a democratic, plural political system.” In addition, if Syria does not comply within 15 days, the UN — while not mentioning sanctions — has called for the adoption of unspecified “further measures, in consultation with the League of Arab States.”
Russia, a longtime ally of Syria has indicated that it wil not vote on any resolution that calls for Assad to step down. Along with China, Russia had vetoed a Security Council resolution proposed last year. Nonetheless, Germany’s Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle said that “There is now a chance that the Security Council will finally take a clear stand on Syria. That is long overdue.”
The Council will vote on the draft resolution next week.
Syria Nearer and Nearer to Civil War
According to the BBC’s Barbara Plett, Russia has said that it is concerned that any outside intervention in Syria could spark sectarian violence and civil war. The latter has been mentioned with increasing frequency as the unrest has continued into its tenth month.
The Syrian regime claims that “foreign conspirators” and “armed gangs” are causing the unrest and says that 2,000 security forces have been killed. SANA, the government’s news agency, also said that, after an explosive device was detonated in the Midan section of Damascus, a gunman started firing and killed a ten-year-old boy and wounded 11 others on Friday.
Earlier this week, Saudi Arabia withdrew its members from the Arab League mission. The Guardian reports that, following Libya, Saudi Arabia is on the verge of recognizing the opposition Syrian National Council, which is located outside of Syria, as the country’s legitimate authority.
In Cairo, some 200 people broke into the Syrian embassy and vandalized it; video footage shows some ripping up and stomping on pictures of Assad. The Syrian ambassador to Egypt has said that he will lodge a formal complaint.
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Photo of the Arab League meeting in January 2012 by Bahrain Ministry of Foreign Affairs