Arab League Mulls Renewal of Monitor Mission in Syria
The Arab League is considering whether to end the mission of 165 observers sent to Syria to report on atrocities committed by Assad loyalists against anti-government protesters there.
The presence of the observers was also intended to act as a deterrent against any further such violence against Syrian citizens by government troops – but has done little to stop the killings.
The head of the opposition Syrian National Council, Burhan Ghalioun, arrived Saturday in Cairo to demand the head the observer mission, General Mustafa al-Dabi of Sudan, accuse the regime of President Bashar al-Assad of “war crimes” and “genocide” in his report to the 22-member body.
Ghalioun's group is also pressing for the League to ask the United Nations Security Council to impose a no-fly zone over Syria, and set up a security area near the border with Turkey.
Foreign ministers from the League are expected to discuss the report by the head of the mission at a meeting Sunday at the body's Cairo headquarters. The observers officially ended their 30-day mission last Thursday, but it is expected that the League will renew their tenure for at least another month.
Four hundred Syrians were murdered during the month that the mission was operating in the country – about 20 percent fewer than had died in the month prior, without the presence of the observers, U.N. figures indicate.
At least 14 people were killed Saturday when a police van carrying prisoners was blown up on a road in northwest Syria, according to the BBC, which quoted the official SANA news agency. The van was allegedly attacked by an “armed group” on the Idlib-Ariha highway – a report confirmed by opposition activists without identifying the perpetrators.
Six other people were killed elsewhere around the country, and 30 unidentified bodies were discovered at the National Hospital in Idlib, rights activists said.
According to a report by the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, Syrian army defectors briefly managed to wrest control of the Damascus suburb of Duma from government troops Saturday night. They later withdrew, however, fearing reprisal raids from security forces sent by President Bashar al-Assad, the human rights group reported.
At least 6,000 civilians have died at the hands of Assad's forces since the anti-government uprising began 10 months ago, according to various sources, including the United Nations. Thousands more have been injured, and many tortured, including women and children. Some have “disappeared.”
The Damascus government claims that some 2,000 security forces have also been killed in clashes with “terrorists and armed gangs.”