News / Middle East

11 Killed in Syria Ahead of Arab League Team Arrival

In this image from amateur video made available by the Ugarit News group purports to show military vehicles in Homs, Syria, December 21, 2011.
In this image from amateur video made available by the Ugarit News group purports to show military vehicles in Homs, Syria, December 21, 2011.

Syria's death toll mounted on Thursday, ahead of the arrival of an advance team of Arab League observers.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights told VOA that nine civilians were killed during security force raids in the Homs region. The group says two other civilians died during unrest in northern Idlib province.

The violence unfolded as the advance team of observers prepared to begin its mission to help ensure that the Syrian government is following through on pledges to stop attacks on anti-government protesters.

The team is preparing for the eventual deployment of hundreds of monitors.  Syria agreed to allow the observers into the country under global pressure to stop its bloody crackdown on nine months of anti-government unrest.

Syrian opposition officials say troops have killed at least 250 people since Monday - one of the bloodiest periods since the anti-government uprising began in March.

The opposition Syrian National Council is urging the U.N. Security Council to hold an emergency meeting on the situation. It also wants the U.N. to declare safe zones inside Syria.

Russia's U.N. ambassador, Vitaly Churkin, says the Security Council will hold a second round of negotiations Thursday to "build consensus" on a Russian-sponsored draft resolution on Syria.

Also Thursday, Turkey condemned its neighbor, saying Syria's policies were turning the country into a "bloodbath."

The Turkish Foreign Ministry said in a statement the violence raised serious concerns about Syria's true intentions, and that no administration can be a winner in a struggle against its own people.

The statement follows similar comments Wednesday from the White House, which said it is only a matter of time before the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad comes to an end.

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

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

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