Syrian toll grows to 150 in two days

Posted: December 21, 2011

BEIRUT, Lebanon - Security forces pursuing antigovernment activists and army defectors shot dead at least 47 people in Syria on Tuesday, pushing the toll for two days of violence to nearly 150 - even as the regime prepared to allow in foreign monitors under an Arab League plan aimed at stopping the bloodshed.

Syrian state television showed pictures of military maneuvers and said they were meant to show its forces are ready to "repulse any aggression the enemies of our nations might think about."

Activist groups said about 100 people were killed Monday, the same day Syria agreed to the monitors after weeks of stalling. About 70 of the dead were said to be army defectors. The groups said Tuesday's toll was at least 47 and possibly as high as 62.

The opposition is deeply skeptical that the agreement to allow the monitors in is anything other than stalling for time as international pressure on President Bashar al-Assad grows. The huge toll for two days of violence, among the highest since March, has reinforced that skepticism.

Commenting on the agreement to allow monitors, the United States said it would judge Syria by its actions. "We've seen too many broken promises from the Syrian regime. So we're really less interested in a signed piece of paper than we are in actions to implement commitments made," State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said.

The deadliest incident Tuesday was in the town of Kfar Owaid in the northwestern province of Idlib where activists said troops attacked with heavy machine-gun fire or shells and killed at least 23 people. The Local Coordination Committees put the death toll in the town at 25.

The Syrian conflict has become increasingly militarized in recent weeks, with clashes nearly every day between army defectors and troops. The northern province of Idlib has witnessed some of the most intense clashes. On Monday, security forces killed up to 70 army defectors as they were deserting their military posts in Idlib near the Turkish border.

The Arab League plan calls for removing Syrian forces and heavy weapons from city streets, starting talks with opposition leaders, and allowing human rights workers and journalists into the country, along with observers from member countries. Assad's regime accepted the monitors after Arab leaders warned they would turn to the U.N. Security Council to try to end the crackdown that has killed at least 5,000 people.

An Arab League official said an advance team would arrive in Syria on Thursday to prepare for the observer mission. The advance team will be led by the Arab League's assistant secretary-general, Sameer Seif el-Yazal.

|
|
|
|
|