Syrian Group: 69 People Killed in Anti-Government Violence Monday

Posted November 15th, 2011 at 7:20 am (UTC-5)
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A Syrian rights group says a wave of violence killed at least 69 people in southern Syria Monday, making it one of the deadliest days of an eight-month-old uprising against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

The British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said Tuesday it documented the killings of 34 Syrian soldiers in battles with suspected army defectors in Daraa province Monday. The human rights group says Syrian security forces also killed 35 people in the region, including army deserters and civilians.

There was no independent confirmation of the casualties because Syria bars most foreign journalists from operating in the country. Syrian rights activists say about 200 other people were killed this month in Mr. Assad's crackdown on dissent, many of them in the central city of Homs.

Jordanian King Abdullah called on the Syrian president Monday to step down, becoming the first Arab leader to do so.

Jordanian officials say about 100 Assad loyalists protested the king's comments outside the Jordanian embassy in Damascus late Monday. The officials say some of the protesters broke through the embassy gate and tore down the Jordanian flag.

Jordan was among 18 Arab nations that voted Saturday to suspend Syria's membership of the Arab League in response to the Syrian government's continuation of the deadly crackdown. Syria's suspension from the 22-member league takes effect Wednesday, the same day Arab foreign ministers are due to meet in Morocco to discuss the situation.

Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Moallem criticized the Arab League vote Monday, calling it a “dangerous step,” and accusing Syria's Arab opponents of conspiring with the United States.

Lebanon and Yemen joined Syria in voting against the suspension. Iraq abstained.

In another development, the European Union imposed sanctions Tuesday on 18 more individuals suspected of links to the Syrian government's violent suppression of opposition protests. The individuals include Syrian military and intelligence chiefs, the country's deputy interior minister and a lawyer accused of providing financial support to the government.

The sanctions require EU members to freeze the assets of those individuals and ban them from travel within the 27-nation bloc.

The United Nations says at least 3,500 people have been killed in connection with anti-Assad protests since March. Syria blames much of the violence on foreign-backed terrorists and religious extremists.