9 Killed in Syria, Opposition Groups Unite

Posted December 31st, 2011 at 2:10 pm (UTC-5)
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Activists say Syrian forces killed at least nine people on Saturday, as Arab League observers were in the fifth day of their mission to monitor the government's pledge to end a crackdown on dissent.

The opposition Local Coordination Committees says three of Saturday's deaths occurred in the flashpoint Homs region.

Activists also say large groups of opponents of President Bashar al-Assad turned out Saturday for protests and, in some cases, funerals that turned into opposition rallies.

Earlier in the day, two of Syria's largest opposition groups announced they are uniting to map out a path for the country's transition, should Mr. Assad's government be toppled.

The Syrian National Council and the National Coordination Body for Democratic Change in Syria said they are signing an agreement that lays out the parameters for democratic rule if Mr. Assad is ousted by anti-government protesters.

On Friday, activists said Syrian forces killed at least 32 people, while Arab League monitors toured several regions.

Amateur video posted online purportedly shows an Arab League observer in Daraa who says his team saw “snipers” with its “own eyes,” while visiting the flashpoint city, Friday.

But, the state-run SANA news agency said Saturday an Algerian media team visited Daraa and “affirmed that life in the city is normal.”

Syrian authorities agreed to allow observers to monitor the situation in the country, under international pressure and threats of Arab sanctions. The plan requires the government to give the monitors freedom of movement except for sensitive military sites.

The United Nations estimates 5,000 people have been killed since March in violence linked to Syria's unrest. Syria says armed terrorists are driving the revolt. It accuses them of killing 2,000 security personnel since March.