The Arab League once again chided Syria for failing to sign up to a league-backed plan to end the violence in Syrian cities. The pan-Arab organization had given the Assad regime a Sunday deadline, but a senior Arab diplomat at the League said late that day that there was no sign Syria had responded.
"We are very clear after the meeting yesterday... We give the Syrians
one day, and I hope we will receive the answer from them. But until now I
think there has been no answer from Syria," the diplomat said.
Analysis: Syria opposition labors for united front
'Post-Assad Syria would drop special Iran ties'
Activists: Overnight clash in north Syria kills 15
Such deadlines have slipped repeatedly in the past. Damascus complains
that its sovereignty would be compromised by the plan, which would
require it to admit Arab monitors to ensure that Syria pulled troops out
of cities. The penalty for Assad's refusal to sign could include the imposition of financial and economic sanctions
on the increasingly isolated regime.
"There are letters still being exchanged between the Arab League and Damascus to reach a vision for the protocol... These communications and correspondence are being studied by Damascus," Foreign Ministry spokesman Jihad al-Makdesi said in the Syrian capital.
Meanwhile Sunday, at least a dozen Syrian secret police defected from an intelligence compound, activists said, in what appeared to be the first major desertion from a service that has acted as a pillar of President Bashar Assad's rule.
A gunfight broke out overnight on Saturday after the defectors fled the Airforce Intelligence complex in the center of Idlib city, 280 km northwest of Damascus.
Ten people on both sides were killed or wounded, the activists said on Sunday.
Assad has so far shown no sign of halting the crackdown on protests against his rule.
In Homs's Sunni district of Bab Amro on Sunday, several thousand people encircled the coffin of Khaled al-Sheikh, a 19-year-old protester who residents said was killed in random shooting by the army on the neighborhood this week.
Abdelbassel Sarout, a 21-year-old soccer player, kissed Sheikh's bloody head as the mostly young crowd of men and women chanted to the beat of drums: "Sleep easy we will continue the struggle... mothers weep for Syria's youth."
"When we film the protests to send on YouTube, most demonstrators would try to hide their face so they would not be identified by the security police," Wael, a young activist, said. "Khaled was always barefaced, chanting the loudest."
Government forces and militiamen loyal to Assad killed at least 30 civilians and five defectors on Sunday, mostly in Homs, Syria's third largest city, according to tallies by several activists' organizations.
"Not a single opposition neighborhood was spared today. Troops either entered districts and raided houses, fired from roadblocks or tanks and pickup trucks hit houses and shops with machine guns," said Abu Zeinab, an activist in the city.
Syrian authorities say they are fighting foreign-backed "terrorist
groups" trying to spark civil war who have killed some 1,100 soldiers
and police since March.
The official state news agency said a father and three children, who
local activists said were shot dead by militiamen loyal to Assad in a
drive-by shooting, were killed by a "an armed terrorist gang" that broke
into their house.
"We see from this heinous crime that the terrorists are continuing to commit their crimes with cold blood," the agency said.
Opposition sources said another 16 soldiers defected from Idlib on
Sunday and fighting separately broke out between a new group of
defectors, of similar size, and loyalist forces to the south, in the
Josieh area on the border with Lebanon
They estimate the number of defectors from the military so far at
several thousand, mainly army recruits from Syria's Sunni Muslim
majority. Members of Assad's minority Alawite sect, an offshoot of
Shi'ite Islam, have a tight grip on the country's military and security
The sectarian dimension to the unrest has come to the fore after
tit-for-tat sectarian killings were reported near Homs, a nascent
insurgency broke out in the provinces of Homs, Deraa and Idlib, and the
United Nations warned of the risk of a civil war.
US Assistant Secretary of State Jeffrey Feltman accused Assad of forcing
his Alawite sect into a bloody conflict with the country's majority
"Bashar Assad ... seems to be intent on fulfilling his own prophecy that
Syria is going to move into chaos and civil war," Feltman, who is in
charge of near eastern affairs, told reporters in the Jordanian capital
"(Assad) is using one community in Syria, he is drawing on intelligence
services that are largely made up of one community in Syria and he is
using them against demonstrations that are largely composed of another
community in Syria," Feltman said.
The top UN human rights forum has condemned Syria
for "gross and
systematic" violations by its forces, including executions and the
imprisonment of some 14,000 people.
Protests, modeled on "Arab Spring" revolts that have toppled leaders in
Tunisia, Egypt and Libya, have continued in Homs and scores of cities
and towns. Armed resistance has grown alongside the sustained peaceful
"The street still wants the protests to continue to maintain the moral
edge of the uprising. But it does not mind if the revolt acquires armed
teeth to protect the demonstrators and deter attacks by the army and
security police," activist Talal al-Ashqar said by phone from Damascus.
Assad has said repeatedly that he is battling to preserve Syria's
sovereignty against a foreign conspiracy to sow sectarian strife. His
isolation has deepened, with the Arab League, the European Union, the
United States and Turkey piling on tougher and tougher economic
But the 46-year-old president does not face any immediate threat of
foreign military strikes. The West has shown no appetite for the type of
intervention that helped oust Libya's Muammar Gaddafi.