Deaths rise in Syria as U.N. Security Council to hold talks

By: Arwa Damon

DAMASCUS- Deaths mounted in Syria on Friday as world powers plan crucial talks about the conflict there.

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Soldiers and security forces killed 135 people on Thursday and Friday, said the Local Coordination Committees of Syria, an opposition activist group.

The group said most of the people were killed in Homs and dozens also died in Hama and Daraa. CNN cannot independently confirm events in Syria because it is limited from reporting on the ground. Of those reported dead, 18 were children and eight were women.

In violence Friday in the Daraa province town of Nawa, 11 civilians died at the hands of pro-regime militias. The assault occurred during a funeral procession for a high school student whom security forces killed Thursday.

“The regime’s forces encircled the procession and responded with intense gunfire which led to additional martyrs. … (President Bash al-Assad’s) security forces and thugs raided the private hospital in the town and attempted to kidnap the wounded,” the group said. It said activist Bashar Abu al-Sal, popular for leading chants in demonstrations, was among the 11 dead. Dozens also were wounded, it said.

In Idlib, a car bomb exploded at a security checkpoint at the entrance of the city. It killed and injured members of the Syrian security forces, the activist group said, without providing a breakdown.

The state-run Syrian Arab News Agency on Friday said terrorists killed law enforcement and civilians, including a 10-year-old boy in a Damascus neighborhood, and gunned down a law enforcement member in Homs. It said that terrorist bombs caused injuries in Deir Ezzor and Idlib and that the house of a Lebanese journalist was torched in Jabal al-Zawia. The government has consistently blamed the unrest in Syria on terrorist groups.

Friday is the day that anti-regime protesters stage countrywide mass demonstrations, held since the unrest began more than 10 months ago.

Activists pick a different theme for each Friday’s protests. The current theme is “the right to self-defense.”

Opposition to al-Assad’s regime has led to the rise of the Free Syrian Army, a resistance force of military defectors that controls neighborhoods in the suburbs of the capital.
A CNN crew drove from central Damascus to the town of Saqba and passed through a Free Syrian Army checkpoint Friday. Those forces had AK-47 assault rifles and one had a rocket-propelled grenade launcher. They were in sandbagged positions and have been able to push back Syrian soldiers that try to enter.

Syrian security forces surrounded other areas.

The Free Syrian Army, which says it has been gaining support, is in “full control” of the Damascus suburb of Douma, according to Lt. Col. Mohamed Hamado of the resistance force.

Thousands took to the streets in Saqba in a massive funeral procession for a man who was killed. People cited clashes between the defector force and the army.

The outpouring comes the same day the U.N. Security Council will hold closed-door talks on the situation, set to start at 3 p.m. ET.

Members are weighing a draft U.N. resolution, obtained by CNN this week, which calls on “all states” to take steps similar to Arab League sanctions imposed in November on Syria.

Arab League Secretary-General Nabil el-Araby and Qatar’s prime minister, Sheikh Hamad bin Jassim al-Thani, will be in New York for talks Monday with the United Nations, an Arab League official said. They will meet with the Security Council during the visit, said the official, who cannot be named because he is not authorized to speak to the media.

The 22-member Arab League has called on al-Assad’s regime to stop violence against civilians, free political detainees, remove tanks and weapons from cities and allow outsiders — including the international news media — to travel freely in Syria. On Wednesday, Syria’s government agreed to a one-month extension of the League’s observer mission, which monitors government activities in various hotspots.

The United Nations last month estimated that more than 5,000 people have died since March. The Local Coordination Committees said Tuesday that more than 6,600 deaths have been documented since the unrest began. Avaaz, a global political activist group, said the death toll has exceeded 7,000.

Source: CNN

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