Syrian Troops Storm Damascus Suburb; 200 Detained

Posted January 26th, 2012 at 6:35 pm (UTC-5)
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Rights activists say Syrian troops have stormed a flashpoint suburb of Damascus, rounding up people in house-to-house raids as the country's 10-month anti-government uprising edges closer to the capital.

The British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said security forces detained 200 people Thursday during raids in Douma, a hotbed of protests and armed rebellion against President Bashar al-Assad.

The London-based group said troops entered Douma early Thursday, days after being forced to leave because of heavy fighting with army defectors. Even as street fighting raged, tens of thousands of backers of President Assad poured into the streets of Damascus in a show of support for his embattled government. Similar pro-Assad rallies were held in other cities.

In Cairo, Arab League chief Nabil Elaraby says he and Qatari Prime Minister Sheikh Hamad bin Jassim al-Thani will present an Arab plan for resolving the Syrian unrest to the U.N. Security Council next week. The plan calls for Mr. Assad to transfer power to a deputy and to form a national unity government to prepare for national elections.

Russia's U.N. envoy Vitaly Churkin said he is prepared to see the two Arab leaders anytime, but he demanded that Council diplomats first be allowed to examine documentary evidence prepared by the League's monitors on the ground in Syria.

Germany's deputy U.N. ambassador Miguel Berger took exception to Churkin's insistence on reviewing the documentation.

Gulf Arab nations have become increasingly supportive of international intervention in the Syria crisis in recent weeks, as pro-Assad forces have continued attacking peaceful protesters and fighting deadly battles with army defectors. But veto-wielding Security Council member Russia says it will not support any resolution that endorses sanctions or military action against Syria.

Violence on the ground continued Thursday, as anti-government rebels battled pro-Assad forces in the southern province of Daraa, killing four security personnel and wounding another five. It was not possible to independently confirm details of the fighting or casualties because Syria heavily restricts independent reporting.

The United Nations said last month that violence linked to the uprising has killed more than 5,400 people. Syrian authorities blame the revolt on armed terrorists and accuse them of killing about 2,000 security force members.