Calls for the Arab League to take active responses to the situation in Syria, where more than 3,500 have been killed since the anti-regime protests erupted in March, intensified this week.
In Britain, Foreign Secretary William Hague urged the Arab bloc to respond “swiftly and decisively” to Syria’s failure to implement a plan aimed at ending eight months of bloodshed.
“It is deplorable that despite making a commitment to the Arab League to end the violence last week, the Syrian government has escalated the repression and many more people have died as a result,” Hague said in a statement.
“I call on the Arab League to respond swiftly and decisively to the Syrian regime’s failure to implement the agreement so far,” he said. “The international community looks to these Arab nations to show decisive leadership to address this crisis in their midst.”
Hague also called on Syria to “lift the siege of Homs,” the only major city to remain outside the regime’s control, and to withdraw forces from the country’s towns and cities in line with its agreement with the Arab League.
Syrian troops killed 12 civilians on Wednesday as they pressed their bloody crackdown on dissent, said the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.
“Six civilians were killed in the Damascus neighborhood of Barzeh, five of whom perished when security forces fired at the funeral of a young man,” the watchdog said in a statement received in Nicosia.
“Three other civilians were killed by bullets fired by regime forces in Inkhel, in the (southern) region of Daraa, and seven protesters were wounded in the nearby town of Jasseem” while protesting against the regime, it added.
“Two civilians were killed in the neighborhoods of Al-Qahira and Khaldiyeh by gunfire from security forces and the Shabiha (militiamen loyal to the regime) in Homs,” a flashpoint city in central Syria.
On Tuesday, 20 people were killed across the country, including eight soldiers and 12 civilians, among them a child, according to the Britain-based Observatory.
Last week, the Syrian regime had come to an agreement with the Arab League members to open talks with the opposition and withdraw tanks from the streets. But the deal came through as security forces loyal to Assad stormed neighborhoods in Homs on the Islamic festival of Eid, leading to further protester killings and civilian casualties.
On Tuesday, a United Nations human rights organization estimated that the regime’s repression has left more than 3,500 people dead since calls for Assad’s autocratic rule to end erupted in mid-March, following a string of “Arab Spring” uprisings in Tunisia, Egypt and Yemen.
Meanwhile, the European Union on Tuesday announced that it was readying a freeze on European Investment Bank credits to Syria as it mulls further sanctions on Assad’s regime after months of bloodshed.
A diplomatic source said the EIB would suspend new credits and freeze disbursement of outstanding credits while also stopping all technical assistance, such as audits and feasibility studies, AFP reported.
A decision is expected at a meeting on Monday of European Union foreign ministers.
No figures on the detail of the amounts involved were immediately available.
The EIB between 2007 and 2013 handed out 10.7 billion euros for projects in nine Mediterranean countries, including Syria.
The 27-nation bloc has already slapped seven rounds of sanctions against the Assad regime.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said 20 people − eight soldiers and 12 civilians − were killed across the country on Tuesday alone, among them a girl who died in Homs, as soldiers pressed on a military campaign in the central industrial hub.
“A civilian was killed during raids in the neighbourhood of Baba Amro,” where soldiers were searching for people wanted by the regime’s security services, the Britain-based rights group said in a statement.
Ravina Shamdasani, spokeswoman for the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, described the situation in the embattled neighbourhood as “appalling,” with residents deprived of food, water and medical supplies for the past week.
In another neighbourhood of Homs, “a girl was killed by the explosion of a rocket that hit her home,” said the Observatory.
And in Qusayr, near Homs, overnight clashes pitted soldiers against gunmen presumed to be defectors.
“Eight gunmen and security agents were killed in an ambush by armed men, probably army defectors,” south of Maaret al-Numan, a town in Idlib province near the border with Turkey, it added.
Security forces also killed four civilians in the same province and “five people were wounded” when troops in armored vehicles opened fire on the highway linking Damascus with the second city of Aleppo.
In a documentary aired last night in the United States called ‘Syria Undercover,’ documented the plight of wounded fighters and activists.
The documentary went viral on social media site Twitter throughout the day and during its broadcast as undercover correspondent Ramita Navai revealed the obstacles facing Western reporters and documentarians to cover the situation in Syria, due largely to the issue of getting access to the country.
“The big problem we faced was that some journalists were getting across through the border with Lebanon, but I found out through some friends of mine in Lebanon that they had closed that border and journalists were being turned away, so they’d realized what was happening,” Navai told film and television magazine Realscreen.
“The hardest thing was just getting the camera out, just filming,” Navai explained. “Before I went I spoke to a photojournalist who’d been there weeks before I was due to go, and he had said he’d taken a really nice camera and he couldn’t get it out because he was so scared – he only took photos with his iPhone.
“People are getting killed there every day,” she said. “It’s relentless, never-ending violence, and it’s never in the news because nobody can get in there to get this footage out.
“These people [the protesters and activists] aren’t terrorists, however, some of them are starting to arm themselves, and I think that means it’s going to descend into real, bloody violence. I think it’s going to be really long, drawn-out, and bloody.”
(Additional writing by Eman El-shenawi)