Syrian Opposition Unites as Violence Claims 9 More Lives

Posted December 31st, 2011 at 5:55 pm (UTC-5)
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Syrian activists said forces loyal to President Bashar al-Assad killed at least nine people Saturday, as the country's two largest opposition groups signed a deal to charter a transitional period should Mr. Assad's government be toppled.

The Syrian National Council and the National Coordination Body for Democratic Change in Syria said they signed an agreement that lays out the parameters for democratic rule after Mr. Assad's ouster.

Activists also said tens of thousands of anti-government demonstrators turned out Saturday for protests and, in some cases, funerals that turned into opposition rallies.

Meanwhile, Arab League observers continued their mission Saturday to check whether the government was implementing a pledge to halt a crackdown on dissent.

Amateur video posted online late Friday purportedly showed an observer in the southern city of Daraa saying “there are snipers; we have seen them with our own eyes.” The man, wearing an orange vest with the Arab League logo, is also heard saying that if the snipers are not withdrawn within 24 hours, “there will be other measures.”

But, the state-run SANA news agency reported 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 International Committee of the Red Cross, meanwhile, expressed concern about the escalating violence and deteriorating situation in Syria.

The ICRC said Saturday violence was taking a heavy toll, leaving hundreds of people dead or wounded and many others detained by the military. The group said it was particularly worried that the wounded and sick were unable to get access to medical care.

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.