Last Updated: Thu Aug 25, 2011 11:55 am (KSA) 08:55 am (GMT)

More killings and detentions in Syria; Arab League to hold urgent meeting

Syrian refugees chat as they spend time at a refugee camp in the Turkish border town of Yayladagi in Hatay province. (Photo by REUTERS)
Syrian refugees chat as they spend time at a refugee camp in the Turkish border town of Yayladagi in Hatay province. (Photo by REUTERS)

Syrian security forces killed seven people, including a woman who died under torture, and arrested more than 150 others over the past 24 hours in a Damascus suburb, activists said on Wednesday, as the Arab League is preparing to hold an urgent meeting on Syria.

Four people were killed in the protest hub of Homs in central Syria and two demonstrators were killed in Talbisseh, north of the city, by security forces Wednesday, said the Local Coordination Committees which groups activists on the ground, according to AFP.

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said that a 28-year-old woman who was arrested a week ago died under torture in the city of Khan Shehoun on Wednesday.

In Palymra, 245 kilometers (152 miles) east of Damascus, one person who was wounded at a funeral a fortnight ago also died.

Military and security forces arrested 27 people in the Harasta suburb of Damascus Wednesday morning, after sealing off the district and arresting 120 people the previous day, the Observatory added, according to AFP.

The industrial district, 10 kilometers (six miles) northeast of Damascus, has been the scene of protests since anti-regime protests broke out in mid-March.

Rallies erupted Tuesday night in Douma and Daraya in the southwest, and around the capital in Kanaker, Zabadani, Madaya and Kisweh, witnesses said.

European nations and the United States pressed Wednesday for UN sanctions against Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad and his entourage for their deadly crackdown on opposition protests.

Arab League meeting

Arab ministers, meanwhile, will hold an urgent meeting on Saturday to discuss the bloodshed in Syria, an Arab League official said, but a delegate to the regional body played down the chances of foreign intervention.

The United Nations says 2,200 people have been killed in Syria in a five-month-old uprising against President Assad.

“The Arab League Peace Committee will hold an urgent meeting on Saturday on the latest events in Syria and the League’s secretariat is making calls to know the number of countries and the names of ministers to attend,” the official said, asking not to be named, according to Reuters.

The official said the meeting would discuss imposing a timeframe for Syria’s government to enact reforms and would end with a “demand for all parties to end the bloodbath.”

A statement issued by the Arab League on Wednesday confirmed that ministers would meet to discuss “the current Arab situation including the developments in Libya and Syria.”

“It is unlikely that there will be decision on a no-fly zone or military intervention in Syria similar to what took place in Libya,” said a permanent representative of an Arab state at the League who refused to give his name.

There are “many restrictions in Syria that make the situation in Syria different from Libya,” he said without elaborating.

The Arab League backed the United Nations Security Council when it approved a no-fly zone over Libya in March. NATO saw the regional backing as vital for any military action to go ahead.

No state has proposed military intervention in Syria, but France said it wanted more pressure on Damascus and the Gulf Arab state of Qatar called for an end to the violence.

Western nations circulated a draft resolution at the United Nations on Tuesday calling for sanctions against Assad, members of his family and associates.

UN resolution

The resolution--drafted by Britain, France, Germany, Portugal and the United States--calls for freezing financial assets of Assad and 22 other Syrians. The resolution, obtained by Al Arabiya, also calls for a ban on weapons sales to Syria.

But Russia, a major arms supplier to Syria which has veto power over UN resolutions, said it was not time for sanctions on Damascus. China, South Africa, Brazil and India also have indicated they would have trouble supporting punitive measures.

Authorities blame the violence on armed groups, who they say have killed 500 soldiers and police.

State news agency SANA said on Wednesday the mutilated bodies of 14 people killed by “armed terrorist groups” had been admitted to a hospital in the city of Homs. It said some were shot in the head and others were burned or stabbed.

Syria has expelled most independent journalists, making it difficult to verify accounts on the ground.

The UN Human Rights Council launched an international commission of inquiry into Assad’s crackdown, condemning what it called “continued grave and systematic human rights violations by Syrian authorities such as arbitrary executions, excessive use of force and the killing and persecution of protesters and human rights defenders.”

In its latest round of sanctions, the EU on Monday imposed asset freezes and visa bans on 15 Syrians, including senior military intelligence and police officials.

The EU diplomat said there was no agreement among EU members on criteria that would allow it to broaden existing sanctions that target specific companies in Syria with asset freezes.

Last week governments agreed to discuss ways to include sectors such as banking, telecoms and energy in EU measures banning European companies from doing business with targeted firms.

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