News / Middle East

    Syrian Opposition Urges UN to Act After 'Massacre'

    Anti-government protesters attend the funeral of protesters killed in earlier clashes in the Damascus suburb of Zabadani, Syria, December 21, 2011.
    Anti-government protesters attend the funeral of protesters killed in earlier clashes in the Damascus suburb of Zabadani, Syria, December 21, 2011.

    The opposition Syrian National Council has urged the United Nations Security Council and the Arab League to take action after reports that government troops "massacred" more than 200 people in two days.

    The opposition council on Wednesday called for an emergency U.N. meeting to discuss the recent "massacres" in Zawiyah mountain, Idlib and Homs. The SNC says 250 people have died in a 48-hour period, making it one of the deadliest times since the anti-government uprising began in March.

    It urged the U.N. to declare these areas "safe zones" and force Syrian troops to withdraw.

    Russian ambassador to the U.N., Vitaly Churkin told reporters the council will hold a second round of negotiations Thursday to "build consensus" about Russia's draft resolution on Syria.

    In Washington, White House spokesman Jay Carney said Wednesday the overwhelming majority of the loss of life in Syria stems from the actions of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's government

    Amateur video from Syria allegedly showing man shot in Homs.

    'Disturbing' reports

    He said the U.S. is "deeply disturbed" by credible reports that the government is indiscriminantly killing scores of civilians and army defectors.

    An activist with the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights told VOA Tuesday that troops surrounded and attacked civilians, including activists, in the Idlib province village of Kafruwed. In one instance, the London-based group told VOA that security forces beheaded the leader of a local mosque.

    Witnesses also told the Observatory that troops besieged a group of army deserters in Idlib, killing or wounding as many as 100. Civilian deaths were reported in other areas as well.

    Foreign observers ready


    The Observatory's claims could not be independently confirmed because Syria has restricted foreign journalists in the country.

    The reported attacks come as foreign observers prepare to enter Syria in an effort to end the nine months of bloody unrest.

    Arab League officials say an advance team will arrive in Syria Thursday to prepare for the observer mission, which eventually will involve hundreds of monitors. The team will include security, legal and human rights experts.

    Syria agreed to allow the observers into the country under global pressure to stop the bloody crackdown on anti-government protesters.

    The White House vowed Wednesday that the international community will take steps to pressure Assad's government if the Arab League peace plan is not implemented.

    Assad accused of stalling

    Critics have said the Syrian move is a stalling tactic. Ian Lustick, a Middle East analyst with the University of Pennsylvania, said that similar scenarios have played out in other countries in the region, and that he doubts the observer mission will occur as planned.

    "We can welcome it, but look at all the times we've seen in Yemen and elsewhere where leaders made agreements and then signed them, or signed them and then backed out to gain a little time to try to see if the next day or two would open new opportunities - if the other side would make some kind of mistake," said Lustick. "So I actually would be very surprised, frankly, if those hundreds of observers were allowed to enter Syria, and even more surprised if they were allowed actually to go outside Aleppo and Damascus to the areas where this violence is occurring."

    The United Nations says at least 5,000 people have been killed during the nine-month uprising against the government of Assad. Syrian authorities blame the violence on "armed terrorist groups."

    Some information for this report was provided by AP, AFP and Reuters.

    Join the conversation on our social journalism site - Middle East Voices. Follow our Middle East reports on Twitter and discuss them on our Facebook page.

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