Attacks Across Syria Kill Dozens

Posted December 20th, 2011 at 6:05 pm (UTC-5)
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Syrian human rights activists say government troops killed at least 49 civilians and dozens of army defectors Tuesday in one of the bloodiest days since anti-government unrest began in March.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights tells VOA the army surrounded civilians in the Idlib province village of Kafruwed early Tuesday. The rights group says troops beheaded a leader of the local mosque. The Observatory's claims have not yet been independently confirmed.

Witnesses tell the Observatory that troops besieged a group of army deserters in Idlib, killing or wounding as many as 100. Civilian deaths are also reported in other areas

Syrian authorities have agreed to let Arab League observers into the country under global pressure to stop the bloody crackdown on anti-government protesters. A league official says an advance team will arrive in Syria Thursday. The team will include security, legal, and human rights experts.

U.S. State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland says the Arab League monitors will be crucial to monitor the protection of innocent civilians and to give the world an accurate picture of what is going on in Syria.

The United Nations says at least 5,000 people have been killed during the nine-month uprising against the government of President Bashar al-Assad. Syrian authorities blame the violence on “armed terrorist groups.”

Syria's state-run news agency reported Tuesday that President Assad has issued a new law allowing the death sentence for anyone found to be distributing weapons to those he says are terrorists.

The Arab League's peace proposal calls for the removal of troops and heavy weapons from the streets, opening a dialogue with the opposition, and allowing human rights workers and journalists into the country. Syria said it demanded changes to the plan without revealing what changes it wants.