Syrian forces kill 19, government offers amnesty

Arab League peace plan fails to halt violence after Friday prayers; regime tanks take to streets in Homs.

Syrian Tank 311 (photo credit: REUTERS)
Syrian Tank 311
(photo credit: REUTERS)
AMMAN - Syrian security forces killed at least 19 people and wounded dozens as they cracked down on protests after Friday prayers, activists said, casting doubt on whether an Arab League plan can end months of bloodshed.
The government offered an amnesty to anyone with weapons if they reported to police within a week, "as long as they did not commit any crimes of killing," state television reported.
RELATED:US cautions on Syria deal, says Assad must goErdogan voices support for 'glorious' Syrian opposition
The gesture did not appear to be part of the Arab League plan, accepted by Syria on Wednesday, under which the army would leave turbulent cities, political prisoners would walk free and a dialogue with the opposition would begin within two weeks.
Violence has, if anything, intensified since the agreement was announced, amid reports of sectarian killings.
Troops fired on protests that erupted after Friday prayers in many towns, killing at least seven people in Kanaker, south of Damascus, nine in the city of Homs, two in Hama to the north and one in Saqba, near the capital, activists said.
"Lots of people fell on the ground with bullet wounds and we are afraid some will not make it," Mohammed, a Kanaker resident, said by telephone.
Tough media curbs have made it hard to verify events in Syria since protests against President Bashar Assad began in March, inspired by revolts against Arab autocrats elsewhere.
Syrian state television denied any killings, and aired footage it said were from areas where protests were reported, showing crowds calmly leaving mosques after prayers.
But YouTube footage, purportedly from many towns and cities, showed thousands of people waving flags, with some shouting: "Mother do not cry, Bashar's days are numbered."
One clip, from the town of Taybet al-Imam, near Hama, showed crowds marching along a main street where huge Syrian flags from the pre-Baathist era were draped over buildings, along with the Libyan flag adopted by those who overthrew Muammar Gaddafi.
Homs has emerged as a protest flashpoint and a centre for emerging armed resistance to government forces. Activists said tank and sniper fire killed at least 22 people in the central city on Thursday, mainly in the old Bab Amro quarter.
The violence in Homs, where tanks were bombarding for the second straight day, illustrates how difficult it will be to implement the Arab League plan in a country locked in a deadly struggle between Assad and foes of his 11-year rule.
Diplomats who have seen the agreement say it lacks any timeline for implementation.