Last Updated: Sat Jan 28, 2012 07:06 am (KSA) 04:06 am (GMT)

Syria killings spike with 120 people killed as U.N. eyes resolution

A Syrian soldier, who has defected to join the Free Syrian Army, holds up his rifle and waves a Syrian independence flag in a Damascus suburb. (Reuters)
A Syrian soldier, who has defected to join the Free Syrian Army, holds up his rifle and waves a Syrian independence flag in a Damascus suburb. (Reuters)

Syrian forces intensified their crackdown on Friday, with activists reporting 120 people killed in two days, as European and Arab nations pressed the U.N. Security Council to call on President Bashar al-Assad to stand down.

The head of an Arab League monitoring mission said unrest had soared this week “in a significant way”, especially in the flashpoint central cities of Homs and Hama and in the northern Idlib region.

The violence, which on Friday for the first time also cost lives in Aleppo, Syria’s second-largest city, “does not help ... to get all sides to sit at the negotiating table,” General Mohammed Ahmed Mustafa al-Dabi said.

For a second day, Syrian forces kept up their attacks on Homs, as Morocco presented a draft U.N. resolution, drawn up by Britain, France and Germany with Arab states, seeking to end months of U.N. deadlock.

Backers of the new resolution hope opponents will be swayed by a new upsurge in violence in Syria and Arab League leadership in efforts to end the deadly crackdown on protests which the U.N. says has left more than 5,400 dead.

The draft “fully supports” an Arab League plan released last weekend demanding that President Bashar al-Assad hand over powers to a deputy so that new elections can be held.

The text demands an immediate end to the government violence and “encourages” all states to follow sanctions imposed by the Arab League against Syria in November, but contains no mandatory action.

Russia and China vetoed a previous European resolution in October, accusing the West of seeking regime change.

Russia’s U.N. ambassador Vitaly Churkin said the text crossed “our red lines, where we cannot go”. Russia opposes any hint of sanctions, an arms embargo or “regime change”, he said.

Churkin was critical of the Arab League, accusing it of seeking to “impose” a solution on Assad before talks had started between the government and opposition groups.

However He made no explicit threat to veto the draft resolution, which French Ambassador Gerard Araud and British envoy Mark Lyall Grant said they want to put to a vote next week after a briefing on Syria on Tuesday by Arab League Secretary General Nabil Elaraby and the Qatari prime minister.

Syrian Ambassador Bashar Ja’afari lashed out at Western countries he said were “repeating the same mistakes” they had made in Libya and elsewhere. “Syria will not be Libya,” he said. “Syria will not be Iraq. Syria will not be Somalia.”

He also dismissed Qatar as “a tiny country in the Gulf area” that is half-occupied by the U.S. military.

Scores killed

The Syrian Observatory of Human Rights said security forces killed at least 44 civilians on Friday, while 12 soldiers were killed in attacks on the military.

It said 19 people died in the southern province of Daraa, 15 in Homs, five in Aleppo, in the north, three in Douma, just north of Damascus, including a child and woman, a boy on the outskirts of the capital, and another in Hama.

Six soldiers died in a car bomb attack on a security checkpoint in the city of Idlib and another six were killed in Daraa province in clashes with army deserters, the Britain-based watchdog’s head Rami Abdel Rahman told AFP.

In violence across the country on Thursday, the Observatory said 62 people were killed, including 33 in Homs, a major protest hub and a tinderbox of sectarian tensions.

On the outskirts of Damascus, an 11-year-old boy was killed at a checkpoint in Hamuriyeh, it said in statements received in Nicosia.

At least 384 children have been among the dead in the uprising against Assad’s regime, and almost the same number detained, the U.N. Children’s Fund said on Friday.

In Cairo, where the Arab League is based, scores of Syrian regime opponents stormed their country’s embassy, an AFP reporter said.

At least 200 Syrian protesters forced their way into the building in Garden City neighborhood, breaking doors and windows, before security officials arrived at the mission and expelled them.

The mission was empty for the Muslim weekend.

Syrian ambassador Yusef Ahmed visited the mission after the incident and said he would formally complain to Egyptian authorities. “The protection today was very weak,” he told AFP.

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