Dozens Die Ahead of Monitors' Arrival in Syria
Nearly two dozen Syrians were killed Monday as more Arab League monitors were scheduled to arrive in the country to observe the compliance of President Bashar al-Assad's forces with a plan to end the violence. Opposition activists told reporters the central city of Homs has been shelled by government forces since the weekend. On Monday, at least 23 people were killed, including 15 in the city's Baba Amr district, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.
Officials from the Syrian National Council (SNC) opposition group urged the monitors to travel directly to Homs, and "specifically to the besieged neighborhoods to fulfill their stated mission," the BBC reported.
Approximately 50 Arab League observers were expected to arrive in Syria on Monday, nine days after an advance team had reportedly come to ensure the monitors would have free access to all areas of the country. Ultimately, the plan calls for a mission of some 200 observers who will meet with both government officials and members of the opposition forces.
On Friday, more than 40 people were killed and at least 150 were wounded in a twin suicide bombing that struck the security service buildings in the nation's capital of Damascus. Assad blamed the international Al Qaeda terrorist organization for the attacks, which occurred the same day that Arab League observers had begun to arrive in the country to lay the groundwork for their mission.
Lebanese Progressive Socialist Party leader Walid Jumblatt issued a statement Monday condemning the bombings and questioning the timing of the attacks. "Although the occurrences of the two bombs in Damascus specifically in a security zone coincides with the arrival of Arab observers raises many questions, the party still... strongly condemns these terrorist bombings," Jumblatt commented in a statement to be published Tuesday in the Al-Anba'a newspaper.
More than 5,000 people have been killed in clashes with Syrian government forces since the Arab Spring uprising began in mid-March, according to United Nations figures.