Arab League leaders are trying to increase the pressure on Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, while the international envoy on Syria warned “the specter of all-out war” in the country grows by the day.
Arab League members met Saturday in Doha for an emergency session with United Nations and Arab League envoy Kofi Annan.
Annan called on Assad to take “bold and visible steps immediately” to implement the envoy’s six-point cease-fire plan. But the former U.N. secretary-general admitted recent atrocities show the conflict is quickly spiraling out of control.
“The massacres of children, women and men in al-Houla is a terrible crime. Worst of all, it is one of many atrocities to have taken place.”
Spreading beyond Syria
Annan also warned the crisis in Syria could spread.
“Hundreds of thousands of Syrians are internally displaced. The crisis is having a regional spillover in the form of tensions and incidents across the borders, abductions of nationals and foreigners, and refugee flows to neighboring states.”
Qatari Prime Minister Sheik Hamid bin Jassim al-Thani echoed Annan’s concerns. He told reporters in Doha that “no country is fortified enough to avoid the fallout from the deteriorating situation in Syria,” and promised the Arab League would work to make sure the Syrian people realize their aspirations.
Already, the league is calling for the U.N. Security Council to replace the almost 300 monitors it has in Syria now with peacekeepers capable of preventing clashes. But already, the fighting has spread.
Clashes broke out late Friday across the Syrian border in the northern Lebanese port city of Tripoli. Lebanese officials said Saturday the fighting between pro-Assad and anti-Assad militiamen in the Bab al-Tebbaneh and Jabal Mohsen neighborhoods had killed at least seven people, including civilians, while injuring more than 30.
One fighter blamed the violence on Assad’s supporters.
“They are targeting us because we are supporting the Syrian revolution and we want to defend our children.”
Violence also gripped Syria’s Homs province for yet another day. Amateur video posted on the Internet showed what was described as shellfire slamming into buildings in Bab al-Sebaa. Other video showed a bomb blast targeting Syrian soldiers who were escorting U.N. observers in Erbin.
Calls for intervention
Meanwhile, calls for foreign intervention are mounting.
From Qatar, the head of the largest Syrian exile opposition group called on Arab countries to intervene. Syrian National Council leader Burhan Ghalioun said he would welcome Arab military action to stop attacks on pro-democracy activists and civilians.
Pressure is also increasing on the United States and other Western nations to act.
Middle East analyst Aaron David Miller of the Washington-based Woodrow Wilson Center tells VOA some sort of action may be inevitable.
“I just don’t see how the United States is going to be able to continue to resist the pressures that have been mounting for some kind of military action.”
Miller, a former foreign-policy adviser to senior U.S. officials, however does not advocate for military action.
“…Syria, in this case, would probably be made more complex by a military intervention. But at this point neither sanctions, diplomacy in the guise of the Kofi Annan plan, or even cooperation with the Russians, is not going to persuade the current regime to desist.”
Some analysts believe resolution of the Syrian crisis will require some sort of deal that allows President Bashar al-Assad to walk away with his freedom. However, U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay, speaking in Brussels, warned against what she described as expedient actions.
“Under international human-rights law, international humanitarian law, these are wrong. You cannot have amnesty for very serious crimes. So my message is very clear: there has to be accountability.”
On Friday, a U.S. government website – humanrights.gov – published what it said was is photographic evidence of mass graves and attacks on civilian areas by Syrian government forces.
The U.S. ambassador to Syria, Robert Ford, said in a statement on the website that Syria’s assault on Houla is “the most unambiguous indictment” of the Syrian regime to date.
Source: Voices of America