News / Middle East

Arab League Suspends Syria Observer Mission

Members from Arab League observers delegation visit al-Msefra town near Deraa, southern Syria, January 5, 2012, in this handout photograph released by Syria's national news agency SANA.
Members from Arab League observers delegation visit al-Msefra town near Deraa, southern Syria, January 5, 2012, in this handout photograph released by Syria's national news agency SANA.

The Arab League said Saturday it is suspending activities by its observer mission in Syria, as the Damascus government's crackdown against dissent intensifies.

The decision to freeze the Arab League observer mission came in the midst of a broad government offensive on areas surrounding the capital, Damascus, and other major cities including Homs, Hama, Idlib and Deir ez Zor. Opposition videos showed government artillery shelling at least half a dozen towns and cities.

Around 100 people are believed to have been killed in Syria in recent days. 

The Arab League's deputy secretary-general said the move to suspend the observer mission was "forced" by the critical and worsening situation in Syria.

The League official, Ahmed Ben Helli, said the observers are not officially being withdrawn from Syria now, but will remain in Damascus. However, the Arab League's own report on the observer mission, seen at the United Nations Saturday, said more than 20 of the original 166 observers have already left Syria.

Arab League ambassadors are to meet next Saturday to make final decisions about the mission.

Syrian government analyst George Jabbour told al Hurra TV that Syria agreed to a one-month extension of the observer mission and deplores the decision to suspend it.

The Arab League asked Syria to extend the observers' time in Syria, and the government agreed, said Jabbour. The situation on the ground makes it necessary to have observers present, and he added authorities in Damascus feel any decision to withdraw the Arab League team would be unjustified.

Across Syria Saturday, an oil pipeline exploded and caught fire near the desert town of Deir ez Zor. The government and the opposition blamed each other for the blast.

Scattered reports of a Syrian government military escalation were accompanied by a warning on state television that interior ministry is “adamant about purging the country of all outlaws.”

The Syrian opposition, meanwhile, meeting in Turkey, accused Iran of helping Syria try to suppress the uprising, which has been growing since March.  

Opposition Syrian National Council member Samir Najjar urged Iran to stop.  The council condemns the Iranian regime for helping to kill Syrian citizens demanding freedom, he said, calling on Tehran to end such actions.

Hilal Khashan, who teaches political science at the American University of Beirut, said the decision to freeze the Arab League observer mission indicates the Assad government's crackdown is going to intensify further. "There has been a dramatic escalation in violence in Syria and, I believe that the termination of the mission of the Arab League observers in Syria indicates that the Syrian Army is about to launch a major offensive. The regime is about to do something dramatic," said Khashan.

He suggested Syrian authorities are responding to the current trip to the United Nations by Arab League leaders. Arab League Secretary-General Nabil al Arabi and Qatar's foreign minister Hamad Ben Jassem are in New York for talks with U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon about the Arab League's plan for resolving the Syrian crisis.

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.

You May Like

FIFA Indictments Put Gold Cup Tournament Under Cloud

Experts say US indictments could lead to charges of other world soccer officials, and lead to major shakeup in sport's governance More

Video Seoul Sponsors Korean Unification Fair

At a recent even in Seoul, border communities promoted benefits of increased cooperation and North Korean defectors shared stories of life since the war More

Video VOA EXCLUSIVE: Iraq President Vows to Fight IS 'Until They Are Killed or We Die'

In wide-ranging interview with VOA Persian service reporter, Fuad Masum describes conflict as new type of fight that will take time to win More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Forced to Return Home, Afghan Refugees Face Increased Hardshipi
X
Ayesha Tanzeem
May 28, 2015 6:48 PM
Undocumented refugees returning to Afghanistan from Pakistan have no jobs, no support system, and no home return to, and international aid agencies say they and the government are overwhelmed and under-resourced. Ayesha Tanzeem has more from Kabul.
Video

Video Forced to Return Home, Afghan Refugees Face Increased Hardship

Undocumented refugees returning to Afghanistan from Pakistan have no jobs, no support system, and no home return to, and international aid agencies say they and the government are overwhelmed and under-resourced. Ayesha Tanzeem has more from Kabul.
Video

Video Britain Makes Controversial Move to Crack Down on Extremism

Britain is moving to tighten controls on extremist rhetoric, even when it does not incite violence or hatred -- a move that some are concerned might unduly restrict basic freedoms. It is an issue many countries are grappling with as extremist groups gain power in the Middle East, fueled in part by donations and fighters from the West. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London.
Video

Video Floodwaters Recede in Houston, but Rain Continues

Many parts of Texas are recovering from one of the worst natural disasters to hit the southwestern state. Heavy rains on Monday and early Tuesday caused rivers to swell in eastern and central Texas, washing away homes and killing at least 13 people. As VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Houston, floodwaters are receding slowly in the country's fourth-largest city, and there likely is to be more rain in the coming days.
Video

Video 3D Printer Makes Replica of Iconic Sports Car

Cars with parts made by 3D printers are already on the road, but engineers are still learning about this new technology. While testing the possibility of printing an entire car, researchers at the U.S. Department of Energy recently created an electric-powered replica of an iconic sports roadster. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Al-Shabab Recruitment Drive Still on In Kenya

The al-Shabab militants that have long battled for control of Somalia also have recruited thousands of young people in Kenya, leaving many families disconsolate. Mohammed Yusuf recently visited the Kenyan town of Isiolo, and met with relatives of those recruited, as well as a many who have helped with the recruiting.
Video

Video US Voters Seek Answers From Presidential Candidates on IS Gains

The growth of the Islamic State militant group in Iraq and Syria comes as the 2016 U.S. presidential campaign kicks off in the Midwest state of Iowa.   As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, voters want to know how the candidates would handle recent militant gains in the Middle East.
Video

Video A Small Oasis on Kabul's Outskirts Provides Relief From Security Tensions

When people in Kabul want to get away from the city and relax, many choose Qargha Lake, a small resort on the outskirts of Kabul. Ayesha Tanzeem visited and talked with people about the precious oasis.
Video

Video Film Festival Looks at Indigenous Peoples, Culture Conflict

A recent Los Angeles film festival highlighted the plight of people caught between two cultures. Mike O'Sullivan has more on the the Garifuna International Film Festival, a Los Angeles forum created by a woman from Central America who wants the world to know more about her culture.
Video

Video Kenyans Lament Losing Sons to al-Shabab

There is agony, fear and lost hope in the Kenyan town of Isiolo, a key target of a new al-Shabab recruitment drive. VOA's Mohammed Yusuf visits Isiolo to speak with families and at least one man who says he was a recruiter.
Video

Video Scientists Say Plankton More Important Than Previously Thought

Tiny ocean creatures called plankton are mostly thought of as food for whales and other large marine animals, but a four-year global study discovered, among other things, that plankton are a major source of oxygen on our planet. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Kenya’s Capital Sees Rise in Shisha Parlors

In Kenya, the smoking of shisha, a type of flavored tobacco, is the latest craze. Patrons are flocking to shisha parlors to smoke and socialize. But the practice can be addictive and harmful, though many dabblers may not realize the dangers, according to a new review. Lenny Ruvaga has more on the story for VOA from Nairobi, Kenya.
Video

Video Iowa Family's Sacrifice Shaped US Military Service for Generations

Few places in America have experienced war like Waterloo. This small town in the Midwest state of Iowa became famous during World War II not for what it accomplished, but what it lost. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, the legacy of one family’s sacrifice is still a reminder today of the real cost of war for all families on the homefront.

VOA Blogs