Security forces in Syria killed 111 people ahead of the arrival of monitors to oversee the implementation of an Arab League peace plan, activists said on Wednesday.

France joined the US and UK in denouncing an “unprecedented massacre.”

RELATED:
Syria opposition demands UN actions as scores killed
Arab League: Monitors in Syria by month's end


Iran said five of its technicians had been kidnapped in the flashpoint city of Homs, the semi-official Mehr news agency reported. “The five were kidnapped on Wednesday at 6:30 a.m. while heading to their work place... We demand their immediate release,” the agency quoted a statement issued by the Iranian Embassy in Damascus as saying.

Syria’s state news agency SANA reported that eight engineers “of different nationalities” had disappeared after heading by bus to their work at a power plant in the city.

Rami Abdulrahman of the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said 111 civilians and activists were killed on Tuesday when President Bashar Assad’s forces surrounded them in the foothills of the northern Jabal al-Zawiyah region in Idlib province and unleashed two hours of bombardment and heavy gunfire. Another 100 army deserters were either wounded or killed, making it the “bloodiest day of the Syrian revolution,” he said.

Tuesday’s bloodshed brought the death toll reported by activists to more than 200 in 48 hours.

The main opposition Syrian National Council said “gruesome murders” were carried out, including the beheading of a local imam, and demanded international action to protect civilians.

“There was a massacre of unprecedented scale in Syria on Tuesday,” French Foreign Ministry Spokesman Bernard Valero said. “It is urgent that the UN Security Council issues a firm resolution that calls for an end to the repression.”

The US said it was “deeply disturbed” by reports of indiscriminate killing and warned Assad the violence must stop.

White House Press Secretary Jay Carney said unless Damascus complied fully with the Arab League plan to end the violence, “additional steps” would be taken against it.

Washington and the European Union have already imposed sanctions on Syria.

“We urge Syria’s few remaining supporters in the international community to warn Damascus that if the Arab League initiative is once again not fully implemented, the international community will take additional steps to pressure the Assad regime to stop its crackdown,” Carney said. “Bashar Assad should have no doubt that the world is watching, and neither the international community nor the Syrian people accept his legitimacy.”

Britain said it was shocked by the reports and urged Syria to “end immediately its brutal violence against civilians.”

Click for full JPost coverage

Idlib, a northwestern province bordering Turkey, has been a hotbed of protest during the nine-month revolt, and has also seen increasing attacks by armed insurgents against his forces.

The Syrian National Council demanded “an emergency UN Security Council session to discuss the regime’s massacres in Jabal al-Zawiyah, Idlib and Homs, in particular” and called for “safe zones” to be set up under international protection.

It also said those regions should be declared disaster areas and urged the International Red Crescent and other relief organizations to provide humanitarian aid.

Arab League Secretary-General Nabil Elaraby said on Tuesday that an advance observer team would go to Syria on Thursday to prepare the way for 150 monitors due to arrive by the end of the month.

Syria stalled for weeks before signing a protocol on Monday to admit the monitors, who are to check its compliance with the plan mandating an end to violence, withdrawal of troops from the streets, release of prisoners and dialogue with the opposition.

Syrian officials say more than 1,000 prisoners have been freed since the plan was agreed upon six weeks ago and that the army has pulled out of cities. The government promised a parliamentary election early next year as well as constitutional reform that might loosen the ruling Ba’ath Party’s grip on power.

Syrian democracy activists are skeptical about Assad’s commitment to the plan, which, if implemented, could embolden demonstrators demanding an end to his 11-year rule.

In a show of military power, state television broadcast footage of live-fire exercises held by the navy and air force, which it said aimed at deterring any attack on Syria.

The UN has said more than 5,000 people have been killed in Syria since protests broke out in March.

Please LIKE our Facebook page - it makes us stronger