Attacks Across Syria Leave Dozens Dead

Posted December 20th, 2011 at 3:40 pm (UTC-5)
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Syrian activists say government troops have killed at least 49 civilians and killed or wounded a number of army defectors in one of the bloodiest days since the unrest began, as the Arab League prepares to send observers to monitor its plan to end Syria's months of violence.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights told VOA the army surrounded and attacked a number of civilians, including many activists, in the Idlib province village of Kafruwed early Tuesday. The rights group says troops killed 36 civilians in the assault, even beheading a leader of the local mosque. The Observatory's claims cannot be independently confirmed at this time.

The Britain-based group told VOA the army also attacked civilians who went into hiding in another part of Idlib . There is no word yet on casualties.

A group spokesperson says 13 other civilians were killed elsewhere, mostly in Homs, while 14 security force members were killed in clashes in Daraa.

The Observatory also quotes witnesses who say troops besieged a group of deserters following morning clashes in Idlib province bordering Turkey, surrounding them between the villages of Kafruwed and al-Fatira. Army soldiers killed or wounded at least 100 defectors, but details are unclear.

The violence comes after Syrian authorities agreed to allow the Arab League to send observers to monitor a plan intended to stop the bloody crackdown on anti-government protesters.

A league official says the group's assistant secretary-general will lead an advance team to Syria on Thursday to pave the way for monitors who will eventually deploy across the country.

The team is to include security, legal, administrative and human rights experts.

The United Nations says at least 5,000 people have been killed during the nine-month uprising against the government of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

Syrian authorities blame violence during the protests 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 terrorists.

The Arab League's peace proposal calls for the removal of troops and heavy weapons from the streets of Syrian cities, the opening of 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 needed to be made.