Violence Continues in Syria Despite Monitors’ Presence

Posted December 31st, 2011 at 5:45 am (UTC-5)
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Violence has continued in Syria, despite the presence of Arab League observers who are monitoring whether the government follows through on its promise to stop the crackdown on dissent.

Activists say Syrian forces killed at least 32 people on Friday.

The opposition Local Coordination Committee of Syria says most of the deaths occurred after forces opened fire on anti-government protesters in several locations.

Activists and witnesses say hundreds of thousands of people rallied across Syria Friday with renewed calls for President Bashar al-Assad's departure.

The United Nations said it was critical that the Arab League observers be given “unhindered access and full cooperation” by the Syrian government.

Meanwhile, Philippine Foreign Secretary Albert del Rosario says he will fly to Syria Saturday to oversee the evacuation of thousands of Filipino workers amid the escalating violence. Officials say the Philippine government helped 56 Filipinos flee the country on Saturday. The Asian nation is one of the world's largest labor exporters.

Syria pulled some of its tanks from Homs and released about 800 prisoners. But opposition leader Burhan Ghalioun said the government continues to hold more than 100,000 people, “some of them in military barracks and aboard ships off the Syrian coast.”

Syrian authorities agreed to the observers 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.