98 killed in Syria, group says; Arab League halts mission
Amid violence, Arab League suspends observer mission in Syria
Among those killed by government security forces were three children, one woman and 11 military defectors, according to the Local Coordination Committees of Syria (LCC), an opposition group that organizes and documents anti-government demonstrations.
Syria “escalated the security situation,” an Arab League statement said. Deaths are up and innocent citizens have been affected by “continuing violence and exchange of assaults and gun firing,” it read.
The decision comes just days after President Bashar al-Assad’s government agreed to a one-month extension of the mission, which began December 26.
The Syrian government “regrets and was surprised” by the move, the state-run Syrian Arab News Agency (SANA) reported, citing an official source. The Arab League made the move to pressure the U.N. Security Council into approving foreign intervention, the source said.
Part of a peace initiative in Syria, the 22-member Arab League has called on al-Assad’s regime to stop violence against civilians, free political detainees, remove tanks and weapons from cities, and allow outsiders — including the international news media — to travel freely in Syria.
It has been monitoring government activities in various hotspots.
In the past two days, opposition activists reported scores of deaths, with one group, the LCC, listing 135 deaths Thursday and Friday.
Another opposition group, the London-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, said Saturday that two more bodies were pulled from a home in the Karm Al-Zayton neighborhood of Homs. The group claims there have been two massacres this month in Karm Al-Zayton, resulting in the deaths of at least 47 people. It called on international aid organizations to help residents there recover bodies — work that the group said has been complicated by snipers and checkpoints.
CNN cannot independently confirm events in Syria because it is limited from reporting on the ground.
“This president, he won’t stop. He’s going to keep killing the people, but the people will never stop. He kills someone. He kills a member of a family — the whole family is going to come out,” said an activist, whom CNN is identifying as Danny.
Speaking from Homs, Syria, he said he had been shot, escaped to Cairo and then returned to the country, where he has lost more than 30 friends.
“We started this revolution; we’re going to finish it. I’m not going to run away from it,” he said. “I hope I survive to see the end of it.”
The Arab League’s statement said the Syrian government has taken “the events toward a direction far from the nature” of the monitoring mission, despite its commitments to the league’s initiative.
Secretary-General Nabil el-Araby decided to halt the mission after discussions with several Arab League foreign ministers.
El-Araby also instructed the mission’s chief, Sudanese Lt. Gen. Mohammad Ahmad al-Dabi, “to take all the necessary to ensure the safety of all members of the mission.”
Violence raged again Saturday as seven soldiers died in an attack, state-run media reported. It blamed an “armed terrorist group.”
Source : CNN