Syrian Activists Report More Killings as Arab League Readies Observers

Posted December 20th, 2011 at 11:45 am (UTC-5)
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Syrian activists say fighting Tuesday between Syrian government troops and army defectors has killed or wounded at least 100 deserters, 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 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.

A group spokesperson says a number of civilians, including many activists, are also surrounded by the army in Kafruwed. The Britain-based group is urging the Arab League chief to intervene immediately to prevent a massacre.

Syrian activists say the security forces killed up to 70 army deserters on Monday as they fled their posts in the same area along the Turkish border.

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.

The U.N. General Assembly on Monday overwhelmingly approved a resolution condemning the violence.

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.