BEIRUT- Three people were killed in a crackdown on dissent against the
rule of President Bashar Assad on Saturday, activists said, despite a
deadline by the Arab League for Damascus to take steps to end the
The Arab League, a powerful political group of Arab states, set the
Saturday deadline for Syria to comply with a peace plan, entailing a
military pullout from around restive areas, and threatened sanctions if
Assad failed to halt the violence.
Arab League gives Syria 3 days to stop bloodshed
on Saturday, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said two army
defectors had been killed in clashes with the Syrian army in Homs, which
has become a focus for the uprising against more than 40 years of Assad
One civilian was also killed in a Saturday morning
raid by security forces in Hama, another center for the uprising, the
Activists said the deaths added to a growing toll from late on Friday,
when 25 civilians were killed in attacks by Syrian forces and by gunmen
suspected of belonging to the opposition. Ten soldiers were also killed
in clashes with army defectors.
The United Nations says the crackdown on the protests has killed at
least 3,500 people since March. Authorities blame the violence on
foreign-backed armed groups which it says have killed some 1,100
soldiers and police.
Syria has barred most independent journalists from entering the country,
making it difficult to verify reports from activists or officials.
Syria has come under growing international pressure to end the crackdown
on the eight month revolt. The Arab League suspended Syria's membership
over its inability to stem the violence in a surprise move last week.
The organization did not detail what would happen if violence continued
up to the deadline, but has threatened political and economic sanctions.
Is Syria headed for civil war?
On Friday, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton expressed concern
that Syria, seen as a fault line of several regional conflicts, could slide into civil war.
"I think there could be a civil war with a very determined and
well-armed and eventually well-financed opposition that is, if not
directed by, certainly influenced by defectors from the army," she told
NBC news in Indonesia, where she was attending a regional summit.
Clinton said the international community was reluctant, however, to
intervene the same way it did in Libya, where NATO forces backed rebel
groups who toppled Muammar Gaddafi.
"There is no appetite for that kind of action vis-à-vis Syria," she
said, pointing to moves by the Arab League and Turkey, who have stepped
up diplomatic pressure on Syria and threatened to follow the West in
French Foreign minister Alain Juppe, alongside the Turkish Foreign
Minister Ahmed Davutoglu, said France was ready to work with the Syrian
opposition and that tougher sanctions were needed. Britain also said it
was increasing its contacts with Assad opponents.
But Syria's ambassador to Lebanon, Ali Abdulkarim Ali, argued that large
pro-government rallies, which have also been organized regularly in
recent weeks, showed that foreign pressure would not succeed in
weakening the government.
"There is great optimism that Syria has the stronger hand and that
international pressure will tumble in the face of Syrian national unity
and (Syria's) balance and responsible policies that have confronted all
these challenges," Ali was cited as saying in the Lebanese daily,
al-Safir, on Saturday.
Damascus on Friday sought changes to a planned Arab League mission to
monitor its implementation of the organization's plan for ending
violence, which Syria argues it has been unable to fully enforce due to
The league's secretary general, Nabil Elaraby said the organization was
studying a letter from Syria which "included amendments to the draft
protocol regarding the legal status and duties of the monitoring
Late night raids
Late night raids by security forces on Friday killed some five residents
in Homs and Albukamal, near the Iraqi border. Both towns have seen
pro-democracy protests and also play host to armed groups of army
In Homs, which has become a center of armed uprising but has also seen
escalating sectarian violence, gunmen attacked a bus transporting
workers and killed at least eleven, an activist told Reuters.
"It is likely because some of those workers were Alawites," he said,
referring to the minority religious sect to which the Assad family
A resident in Homs, who declined to be named, also told Reuters that
defected soldiers attacked a car they said was carrying members of Air
Force Intelligence, killing four.
The attack comes two days after opposition sources said the Free Syrian
Army said it killed or wounded 20 security police in an assault on an
Air Force Intelligence complex on the outskirts of Damascus, the first
assault of its kind in the uprising.