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Violence Rises in Syria, Vexing Arab League Monitors

Written By Ivan Kolev on Friday, January 27, 2012 | 11:44 PM


DAMASCUS, Syria — Violence in Syria has escalated sharply in the past two days, with heavy bloodshed reported Friday in at least three flash points as Arab League monitors expressed exasperation and the United Nations Security Council prepared to discuss the crisis as a step toward a possible resolution condemning President Bashar al-Assad’s government.

Syrian rights activists reported government troops attacking targets in the central cities of Homs and Hama and the northern city of Idlib. The opposition Local Coordination Committees, in accounts that were impossible to independently corroborate, said at least 30 people in Homs, including women and children, had been killed since Thursday. An activist with the group said that government forces, mobilized near the city’s southern approach, were shelling the restive Baba Amr and Inshaat neighborhoods.

“The city is completely paralyzed. Nobody leaves his house unless it’s a real emergency, knowing that they’re risking their lives,” the activist said.

The group, which said it had recorded 119 deaths in the last two days, said that security forces opened fire on a demonstration in Hama, the scene of intense fighting.

Meanwhile, the Syrian state news agency, SANA, said that gunmen staged an attack on the Midan neighborhood of Damascus, killing a 10-year-old boy and wounding at least 11 people. The news agency said that after an explosive device was detonated remotely, the gunmen fired randomly at the victims.

The head of the Arab League observer delegation in Syria, which has been flustered by both Mr. Assad’s security forces and the opposition in its effort to assess the 10-month-old uprising that has veered toward civil war, said in a statement that the level of mayhem had risen “in a significant way” this week.

“The situation at present, in terms of violence, does not help prepare the atmosphere” for negotiations, the head of the delegation, Lt. Gen. Muhammad Ahmed al-Dabi of Sudan, said in the statement.

The United Nations has estimated that at least 5,400 people have been killed in Syria since the uprising began last March, but even that number may not reflect the full extent of the violence, which has escalated as defecting Syrian soldiers and other armed men have joined the protest movement and attacked government forces.

Navi Pillay, the top human rights official at the United Nations, said in Geneva that Syria’s ethnic and sectarian fragmentation was making it more difficult to document the death toll.

At the Security Council on Friday, diplomats from Western and Arab nations were holding talks on a draft resolution that would condemn Mr. Assad’s government, and there were expectations that a vote could be held next week. But Mr. Assad’s most important ally, Russia, has signaled that it will veto any resolution that calls for Mr. Assad to relinquish power.

Russia’s deputy foreign minister, Gennady Gatilov, was quoted by Russia’s Itar-Tass news agency as saying, “We cannot support any U.N. resolution calling for the support of Assad’s resignation.”

Mr. Assad and officials in his government have denounced the uprising against him as a plot by foreign-backed terrorist groups and have dismissed widespread calls by a growing number of countries, including Arab League members, for him to step down.

Kareem Fahim reported from Damascus, and Rick Gladstone from New York.

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