Assad meets with Arab League ministerial team 311 R.
(photo credit: REUTERS/Sana Sana)
A team from the Arab League arrived in Syria on Thursday, ahead of the
deployment of monitors to judge whether Damascus was implementing a peace plan
to which it agreed last month.
The plan – to be supervised by some 150
monitors – entails a withdrawal of troops from Syrian cities, the release of
prisoners and dialogue with the opposition.
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Arab League sources have said
the advance team has a dozen members, including financial, administrative and
legal experts to ensure monitors have free access across Syria. The government
of President Bashar Assad stalled for six weeks before signing a protocol on
Monday to admit the monitors; the main group is to arrive by the end of the
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said 21 people were killed
on Thursday. Most were in the central city of Homs, but some were in the
northern province of Idlib and the southern province of Deraa, where the
anti-Assad protests first broke out in March. Thursday’s deaths came after Syrian forces surrounded and killed
111 people this week in Idlib in the deadliest assault since the uprising
Analysts cautioned against raising expectations that the monitors’
arrival would have an appreciable effect in stopping the violence.
a complete waste of time, since the agreement has already been watered down by
the regime,” said Michael Weiss, communications director at the Henry Jackson
Society, a London-based foreign policy think tank. “The escalation in violence
we’ve seen in the last 48 hours... was an attempt to clear the decks and destroy
the revolution once and for all in advance of this bit of theater.”
told The Jerusalem Post
by phone that “this regime is dead set on killing every
man, woman and child who hits the street to protest in favor of toppling the
government and instituting democracy.
Anyone who thinks that will change,
or that Assad will go quietly or accept some kind of asylum deal, is kidding
Weiss authored a strategic briefing paper released this week,
which argues that despite the hazards of military intervention, the creation of
civilian “safe zones” is a prerequisite for avoiding a bloodbath of catastrophic
“The only way to prevent a Rwanda-style genocide in the
country is through military intervention,” he said. “By doing nothing we will be
left with a failed state.”
Conservative estimates place the toll from the
nine-month uprising at 5,000 killed and 27,000 wounded, but Weiss believes the
body count is closer to 8,000. With some 50,000 people missing, he said, that
figure could be much higher still.
Syrian authorities said on Thursday
that 2,000 soldiers and security force members had been killed since
That figure was nearly double the previous number given by
Damascus, and follows weeks of escalating attacks by army deserters and gunmen
against forces loyal to Assad.
“There are more than 2,000 martyrs among
the security forces and army, at a time when some still refuse to be convinced
about the presence of terrorists in Syria,” Syria said in a letter to the United
Nations published by state news agency SANA.
The letter came in response
to assertions by the UN human rights chief that Syria’s crackdown could
constitute crimes against humanity.Reuters contributed to this report.