Syria ignores Arab plan to stop bloodshed

Last Updated: Tuesday, February 14, 2012 - 09:50

Damascus: Syria ignored a new Arab
initiative to end the bloodshed, with its troops pounding the protest hub of Homs Tuesday as Russia said a ceasefire is needed
before peacekeepers can be deployed.

Pressure mounted on the Damascus regime, with the top UN
human rights official saying that crimes against humanity have
probably been committed in the bloody crackdown on dissidents
since March last year.

"The nature and scale of abuses committed by Syrian
forces indicate that crimes against humanity are likely to
have been committed since March 2011," High Commissioner for
Human Rights Navi Pillay told the UN General Assembly.

The Arab League agreed yesterday to ask the United
Nations to send a joint peacekeeping force to Syria, where
activists say more than 6,000 people have died in the
crackdown.

President Bashar al-Assad`s regime swiftly rejected the
initiative.

Hours after the League`s decision, Assad`s troops resumed
shelling Baba Amr, a rebel bastion in the central city of
Homs, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.

"The neighbourhood of Baba Amr has been subjected to
sporadic shelling since 5:00 am (local time) by the Syrian
army," the Britain-based group said in a statement.

Regime forces killed eight civilians, among them three in
Homs and two in nearby Rastan, including a 13-year-old girl in
shelling after clashes between army defectors and soldiers.

Three troops also died.

Security forces also raided homes to arrest people in the
southern Daraa province, cradle of the Arab Spring-inspired
11-month uprising against Assad`s iron-fisted rule.

"There were fierce clashes between defectors and the army
which stormed Lajat (also in Daraa province) and arrested the
mothers of four dissidents," the Observatory said.

Despite the relentless violence, protests were staged
across Syria.

Some denounced Assad and others supported the rebel Free
Syrian Army, according to YouTube videos provided by the Local
Coordination Committees, an activist network.

"Arab League!!! Thank you but we need more," said a
placard students carried at a rally in Jabala, Idlib province.
A government official said Syria was determined to crush
such dissent, regardless of the latest Arab initiative, the
official SANA news agency reported.
"This decision will not prevent the Syrian government
from fulfilling its responsibilities in protecting its
citizens and restoring security and stability," the
unidentified official was quoted as saying.

"Syria rejects decisions that are a flagrant interference
in the country`s internal affairs and a violation of its
national sovereignty."

Activists say Assad`s forces have killed at least 500
people in Homs since they began bombarding it on February 4 --
the same day Russia and China vetoed a second UN Security
Council resolution on Syria.

That move prompted the pan-Arab bloc to ask for a joint
Arab-UN peacekeeping mission.

"The risk of a humanitarian crisis throughout Syria is rising," warned Pillay in her UN address.
"The failure of the Security Council to agree on firm
collective action appears to have emboldened the Syrian
government to launch an all-out assault in an effort to crush
dissent with overwhelming force."

The Arab initiative was welcomed by Russia, the European
Union and other Western powers.

EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton said the Arab
League had taken "significant decisions to increase the
international pressure on the Syrian regime" and urged the
Security Council to act in order to stop the violence.

PTI



First Published: Tuesday, February 14, 2012 - 09:39

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