An Arab League proposal to boost support for the uprising against Syrian
President Bashar Assad and send in foreign peacekeepers drew a guarded
international response on Monday and showed little sign of halting the bloodshed
Russia, Assad’s close ally and main arms supplier, said it
could not support a peacekeeping mission unless both sides ceased the violence
Some felt the moves might only fan the flames of war.
feel the decisions are taking a grave turn for Syria and for the region,”
Lebanon’s Foreign Minister Adnan Mansour said in Beirut.
said it was just the start of a long and complex process to resolve what is
potentially the most dangerous of the Arab uprisings.
On the battlefront,
Syrian government forces bombarded rebellious districts of Homs and attacked
other cities in their campaign to crush opposition to Assad’s 11-year
Mortar rounds and tank fire pounded Baba Amro district but
casualties could not be tallied because communication was cut
Activists said 23 people were killed on Sunday, adding to a toll of
more than 300 since the assault on Homs, strategically located on the highway
between the capital Damascus and second city Aleppo, began on February
In New York, the UN high commissioner for human rights said the
failure of the Security Council to pass a resolution on Syria has encouraged the
government there to continue its “indiscriminate attack” on Homs.
failure of the Security Council to agree on firm collective action appears to
have emboldened the Syrian government to launch an all-out assault in an effort
to crush dissent with overwhelming force,” Navi Pillay told the General
The International Committee of the Red Cross said Syrians
living in areas hit by the conflict are now struggling to find even basic
“The situation has been increasingly violent and it hasn’t
been easy for people to do anything. The streets are empty, people can’t go
anywhere to buy food. There is even a problem getting bread,” an ICRC official
World powers are digesting Arab League proposals from a meeting in
Cairo on Sunday that called for a joint United Nations-Arab peacekeeping force
for Syria and pledged to provide political and material aid to the
The plan faces many obstacles. Foreign governments are
divided over how to resolve the crisis and Russia and China already vetoed a UN
Security Council resolution on Syria on February 4 that called for Assad to step
In Moscow, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov made clear Russia
would not support the peacekeeping plan unless there was a halt to violence by
both government forces and their armed opponents. He suggested the latter
would be tough to achieve.
UN peace missions “need to first have a peace
to support,” Lavrov told a news conference.
“The tragedy is that the
armed groups that are confronting the forces of the regime are not subordinate
to anyone and are not under control,” he said, adding that the opposition had
“modern guns, mortars and grenade launchers and also sow death.”
to the violence must be universal,” he said.
China backed what it termed
the Arab League’s “mediation” but offered no clear sign of support for the
“Relevant moves by the United Nations should be
conducive towards lessening tension in Syria... rather than complicating
things,” Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Liu Weimin said.
States and Europe are reluctant to get dragged in militarily, fearing that given
Syria’s position in the Middle East’s religious, ethnic and political fault
lines, this would be more risky and complicated than the NATO-led air support
that helped Libyan rebels oust Muammar Gaddafi last year.
Secretary William Hague reflected that caution, saying any peacekeeping troops
in Syria should come from non-Western countries.
“I don’t see the way
forward in Syria as being Western boots on the ground in any form, including in
any peacekeeping form,” he told reporters on a visit to South
France was unenthusiastic about sending in foreign
“We think that any external military intervention would only make
the situation worse,” French Foreign Minister Alain Juppe said.
peacekeeping mission would in any case require the cooperation of Syria, which
dismissed the League’s resolution as a “hostile act that targets Syria’s
security and stability.”
The fragmented nature of the opposition to Assad
is also a problem for those keen on political change in Syria.
League effort also highlighted regional rivalries.
Its moves have been
driven by Saudi Arabia and other Sunniruled Gulf monarchies who have long
resented Assad’s close ties to Shi’ite regional rival Iran.
It hinged on
convincing Russia it must eventually give up its support for Assad and bringing
the opposition together.
Analysts say Assad’s downfall could still be far
off. The unrelenting assaults on opposition strongholds show his determination
to crush his foes and resist reforms other than on his own terms, they
Reports have also emerged of increasing weapons supplies from Iraq,
where for years the Assad regime armed and supplied insurgents against US-led
“We have intelligence information that a number of
Iraqi jihadists went to Syria,” Iraq’s deputy interior minister Adnan al-Assadi
told the AFP news agency.
Citing an unnamed U.S. officials, a
reporter for McClatchy newspapers reported this week that the Iraqi branch of
al-Qaida had out two recent bombings in Damascus and may have been behind
suicide bombings Friday that killed at least 28 people in Aleppo. Those reports
In Homs, government troops concentrated their fire on
Baba Amro in the south and al-Waer in the west, which borders the Military
College, a main assembly point for tanks and government troops, opposition
Activist Hassan Said al-Waer, scene of large
pro-democracy demonstrations for months, had come under attack in the last
several days from pro-Assad militia known as shabbiha.
“We heard that the
Free Syrian Army has started responding by attacking roadblocks being manned by
Communications with al- Waer have been cut off and the sound of
shelling can be now heard,” he said.
The Free Syrian Army, led by
military defectors, has taken the central role in armed opposition to the Assad
On Sunday armor-backed troops raided the al-Inshaat district
of Homs. Tanks ran over civilian cars and troops ransacked houses and burned
furniture in the streets as collective punishment, the Coalition of Free Homs
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said shelling had also
started up again on the city of Rastan in Homs province.
forces had made failed attempts to storm Rastan at dawn from its southern
entrance. Rebels destroyed an armored vehicle and killed three soldiers, the
In the city of Hama, 50 km. north of Homs,
government forces backed by tanks and armored vehicles killed at least one man
when they raided neighborhoods on Sunday near the countryside where the Free
Syrian Army has been active.
“It is the third day of such incursions.
They fire heavy machine guns and anti-aircraft guns at random, then they go in
and raid houses and arrest dozens of people,” an activist said from Hama.