Saturday, December 31, 2011
Hundreds of thousands demonstrate in Syria in presence of monitors, at least 12 killed
Large demonstration in Hama on 30-12-2012
Syrian security forces have killed at least 12 protesters as hundreds of thousands demonstrated against the government of President Bashar al-Assad, opposition activists said. Five members of the security forces were also killed in a shooting in the city of Homs, the British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said Friday.
The presence of Arab League monitors in hotspots across Syria since Monday has given a new impulse to the protests. Demonstrators wanting to show the scale of their movement to the monitors threw rocks at security forces in the Damascus suburb of Douma, where troops tear-gassed the chanting crowds.Five people were shot dead in the city of Hama and five in the city of Deraa, the Observatory reported, adding that at least two dozen people had been injured in Douma. In Idlib province security forces shot dead two people and wounded 37, according to the Observatory.
Activists in Idlib said the army had concealed its tanks in buildings on the outskirts or in dugouts.
The Arab League mission has met with strong scepticism from the outset over its makeup, its lack of numbers - due to rise from 60 to 150 - and its reliance on government transport. A first assessment by its Sudanese head that the situation was "reassuring" prompted disbelief in the West Wednesday, but Friday Syria's ally Russia accepted the judgement.
The United Nations said it was critical that the team's "independence and impartiality be fully preserved." Spokesman Martin Nesirky urged the Arab League to "take all steps possible to ensure that its observer mission will be able to fulfil its mandate in accordance with international human rights law standards." He said the United Nations was willing to give the League observers training on human rights monitoring.
The commander of the anti-government Free Syrian Army told Reuters he had ordered his fighters to stop offensive operations while the FSA tried to arrange a meeting with the monitors.
"All operations against the regime are to be stopped except in a situation of self defense," Colonel Riad al-Asaad said.The FSA, formed by thousands of defectors from Assad's army and financed by expatriate Syrians, has taken the offensive in the past three months, taking the fight to the state rather than simply trying to defend opposition strongholds.