NEWS

Syrian violence climbs as officials prepare an anti-Assad case for UN

BEIRUT — Dozens of people were reported killed Thursday as violence raged across Syria and Arab League officials calling on President Bashar Assad to relinquish power prepared to take their case to the United Nations.

The Syrian regime blames the violence on terrorists, including Islamic militants, armed and supported by foreign nations. Opposition groups say the government’s brutal crackdown on peaceful protests has led to an armed rebellion of Syrians seeking justice and freedom from Assad’s police state.

Both sides gave conflicting accounts of the latest spate of bloodshed since large-scale protests against Assad’s rule broke out 10 months ago, pushing the nation toward civil war.

Pro-Assad demonstrators gathered in Damascus, Syria’s capital, and other cities, the state-owned news agency said, even as anti-government protests and attacks on security forces continued.

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Heavy fighting was reported in several Damascus suburbs, but an opposition group reported that the largest death toll was in the troubled central cities of Homs and Hama, where 54 were killed by government security forces, according to the Local Coordinating Committees, an activist group that seeks Assad’s ouster. Nationwide, the group said, security forces had killed 65 people.

A reduced corps of Arab League monitors have resumed their work on the ground in Syria, seeking to verify if Damascus is taking steps to end the violence. Missing were 55 Gulf Arab monitors who left Syria after six Gulf nations, led by Saudi Arabia, questioning Assad’s commitment to peace. The Syrian government says the league is involved in a “conspiracy” to topple Assad.

Arab League officials, meanwhile, were preparing to head to New York in a bid to convince the U.N. Security Council to condemn Assad’s regime. The league has called on Assad to relinquish power, but the Syrian government has rejected the proposal. The Arab League is said to be working with Western nations, including the United States, on a draft resolution condemning the Syrian government. But Russia, a Security Council member with veto power, has voiced opposition to any U.N. sanctions or military action against their Syrian ally.

The Syrian regime blames the violence on terrorists, including Islamic militants, armed and supported by foreign nations. Opposition groups say the government’s brutal crackdown on peaceful protests has led to an armed rebellion of Syrians seeking justice and freedom from Assad’s police state.

The differing accounts of the deaths and injuries Thursday could not be independently verified.

The latest violence comes a day after a Christian priest and a Red Crescent official were killed in separate incidents. Each side blamed the other for the deaths.

A reduced corps of Arab League monitors have resumed their work on the ground in Syria, seeking to verify if Damascus is taking steps to end the violence. Missing were 55 Gulf Arab monitors who left Syria after six Gulf nations, led by Saudi Arabia, questioning Assad’s commitment to peace. The Syrian government says the league is involved in a “conspiracy” to topple Assad.

Arab League officials, meanwhile, were preparing to head to New York in a bid to convince the U.N. Security Council to condemn Assad’s regime. The league has called on Assad to relinquish power, but the Syrian government has rejected the proposal. The Arab League is said to be working with Western nations, including the United States, on a draft resolution condemning the Syrian government. But Russia, a Security Council member with veto power, has voiced opposition to any U.N. sanctions or military action against their Syrian ally.


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