Last Updated: Mon Aug 08, 2011 08:36 am (KSA) 05:36 am (GMT)

Assad forces kill more than 50, as Arab League calls for immediate end to violence

Syrian protesters run after tear gas canisters are thrown in Al Malaab street in Homs, 165 km (100 miles) north of Damascus.(REUTERS Photo)
Syrian protesters run after tear gas canisters are thrown in Al Malaab street in Homs, 165 km (100 miles) north of Damascus.(REUTERS Photo)

At least 50 civilians have been killed on Sunday by Syrian security forces backed by army tanks in Deir Al Zor and Homs, activists said. The Arab League, meanwhile, broke silence and expressed “growing concern” about Syria and called on the authorities to stop acts of violence against protesters immediately.

Activists said security forces backed by tanks killed 42 civilians in the eastern city of Deir Al Zor and at least 10 more in the central town of Hula on Sunday.

“Forty-two civilians have been killed and more than 100 wounded in Deir Ezzor by gunfire from the armed forces and security agents,” Syrian League for the Defense of Human Rights head Abdel Karim Rihawi told AFP.

Mr. Rihawi said that 28 people were killed in Deir Al Zor’s Al Jura neighborhood and 14 died in Huweika district, adding that “thousands of people have fled the city heading further north.”

In Hula in Homs district, at least 10 people were killed in a military assault, Rihawi said.

“About 25 tanks and troop carriers entered Hula and carried out military operations,” another activist, Rami Abdel Rahman of the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, said earlier.

The Local Coordination Committees which organized the protests said on Facebook that snipers were on rooftops in Deir Al Zor “are firing on anything that moves,” and also gave a toll of 42 dead.

The regime of President Bashar Al Assad continuously denies targeting citizens and says its security operations were aimed at “armed gangs.”

“To deal with outlaws who cut off roads, seal towns and terrorize residents is a duty of the state which must defend security and protect the lives of civilians,” state news agency SANA quoted him as saying.

Meanwhile, Arab League Secretary General Nabil Elaraby issued a statement expressing “growing concern and strong distress over the deteriorating security conditions in Syria due to escalating violence and military operations in Hama and Deir Al Zor and other areas of Syria.”

The assault on Deir Al Zor, capital of an oil-producing province, began one week after President Assad sent the army to seize control of Hama, focal point of the protests.

Mr. Elaraby’s statement was one of the strongest made by an Arab leader since the start of the Syrian uprising, as most governments had stayed silent apparently fearing the power of the protests would move to other Arab states.

Mr. Elaraby, who took office in May, started his new job by visiting Syria but declined to give details of a meeting with President Assad.

“There is still a chance for the reforms that were announced by President Bashar Al Assad to be accomplished,” Mr. Elaraby said and called on the Syrian authorities to “stop all acts of violence” immediately.

He also called on the Syrian political powers and government to engage in serious talks, adding that the Arab League was ready to help to get Syria out of its crisis.

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