Syria awaits Arab League meeting
(CNN) — Arab League officials meet in Cairo on Sunday to discuss their Syria mission amid escalating tension and a growing international outcry over the unrest that has killed thousands.
“The option of suspending the monitors’ mission is not on the table and the mission will continue as more Arab nations are sending experts to join the mission,” the League said.
The head of the League will recommend beefing up the mission, which currently has 165 observers, said Ali Erfan, a senior adviser to the Arab League chief.
Arab League officials have consulted with the United Nations about the situation in Syria, he said.
While the mission does not have a mandate for peacekeeping or to stop the conflict, it is tasked with verifying Syria complies with the four points for the Arab League action plan.
They are release detainees, allow media and other observers, halt the violence and pull heavy equipment off the streets.
Human Rights Watch notes that League Secretary General Nabil el-Araby said, “Syria has already taken some steps under the terms of the agreement, withdrawing heavy weapons from Syrian cities, and releasing about 3,500 prisoners.”
But it cites examples of Syria failing to abide by the League initiative, including security forces’ attacks on peaceful demonstrators since the mission began.
Early Sunday morning, clashes between government security forces and army defectors killed at least 11 in the village of Basr al-Harir in Daraa, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a London-based opposition group with contacts throughout the country.
The brutal Syrian government crackdown began in mid-March in Daraa. And last week, human rights groups asked the Arab League to initiate action against President Bashar al-Assad’s regime. They accused Syria of failing to comply with efforts to end the 10-month-long crackdown.
The Arab League is on a fact-finding mission in the nation, part of a larger initiative to end security forces’ attacks on peaceful protesters. Death estimates range between 5,000 to 6,000.
Residents say attacks have continued during visits by Arab League officials, but at later times.
Most shelling occurs after officials leave the city and go back to their hotels, a resident in the besieged city of Homs said.
“They take the leaguers where they want,” he said Saturday. “These are massacres. We have tens dying daily. Stores are closed … civilian life is at a halt.”
Opposition activities said at least 27 people were killed in attacks across the nation on Saturday. Eight of those deaths occurred in Homs.
Relatives of victims of a suicide bombing in the capital and lethal clashes elsewhere buried their dead Saturday as crowds flocked to a central square in Damascus to condemn the blasts, the Syrian Arab News Agency reported.
At least 26 people died and at least 63 people were injured in the Friday blast, SANA said, with most of the casualties civilians and some law enforcement personnel.
The interior ministry has vowed to “strike with an iron fist” anyone who threatened the nation’s security after the second such bombing in the capital in two weeks.
The government has blamed the suicide attack on terrorists while the opposition pointed fingers at the regime.