Arab League considers extension of Syria mission

 

Syrian government tanks and armored vehicles have pulled back from an
embattled mountain town near Damascus, activists and witnesses said
today, but at least nine people were killed by security forces
elsewhere as a month-long Arab League fact-finding mission expired.

The pullback from Zabadani left the town under the control of the opposition, activists said. The besieged town of Zabadani has witnessed heavy exchanges of fire between army troops and anti-government military defectors over the past six days.

The 10-month uprising against Syrian President Bashar Assad has turned increasingly militarized and chaotic as more frustrated regime opponents and army defectors arm themselves and fight back against government forces. The capital has seen three suicide bombings since late December which the government blamed on terrorist extremists.

Arab League foreign ministers will consider extending the League's observer mission in Syria in a meeting Sunday in Cairo, officials said today.

Although the mission expired Thursday, Adnan al-Khudeir, head of Cairo operations room that handles reports by the monitors, told The Associated Press that observers will remain in Syria until a decision is made on Sunday.

According to al-Khudeir, the meeting chaired by the Qatari foreign minister will discuss a report by the head of the mission Gen. Mohammed Ahmed al-Dabi who is arriving in Cairo from Syria on Thursday.

The monitors will remain in 17 different places around Syria until the Arab League makes a final decision, he says.

"If there is a decision to extend the mission of the observers, we are ready to send more monitors after training them in three days," he said, adding that the total number of monitors might reach 300.

The mission has been mired in controversy, with the opposition claiming it served as a cover for the regime to continue its brutal crackdown against protesters.

U.S. State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said Thursday the monitors have had a "mixed picture" of results, enabling some protests and some media coverage.

"We believe that we've got to increase the economic pressure on the Assad regime to change course," she said.

Rejecting charges that the observers have been ineffective in reducing violence, he said extending the mission would help the opposition more than the regime.

"The killings are less, the protests increase," he said, speaking on condition of anonymity because no decision has been made. "The mission's presence offers assurance to the people because the observers can spot any violations. There is a conviction even among Syria opponents that the extension is better than withdrawal."

More than 5,400 people have been killed since the uprising erupted last March.

Activists reported continued violence Thursday. In Damascus, a Syrian security agent was wounded when a small explosive device tore through his car in the Tadamon neighborhood, a Syrian official said. No other damages were reported from the morning explosion, according to the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to give statements.

A military security brigadier, Adel Mustafa, also was killed by soldiers who had defected and refused his orders to shoot at civilians in the Bab Qibli area of Homs, according to the Local Coordination Committees, an umbrella group of activists. The officer had previously overseen many killing and arrest operations, according to the LCC.

In Zabadani, activist Fares Mohammad said Syrian forces withdrew Wednesday night to two military barracks on the outskirts.

"There is a cautious calm, but fear of another major assault being prepared against Zabadani," he told The Associated Press by telephone from the resort town, located alongside the Lebanese border 17 miles (27 kilometers) west of Damascus.

The Syrian opposition has on several occasions throughout the uprising gained control of a town or city, but ultimately forces loyal to Assad retook them. It is unusual however for the army to take so long to recapture a town so close to the capital.

Mohammed said the siege had eased, although heating oil has not been allowed into the town, where it snowed earlier this week. Military checkpoints surrounding the Zabadani were still in place, he said, while about 100 armed defectors were "protecting" it.

Residents said government mortars had shelled the town on Wednesday, but that too had stopped.

The British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights confirmed the pullout from Zabadani, saying only two armored personnel carriers were left behind at one of the checkpoints near the town.

Syrian officials issued no comment about the fighting in Zabadani.

Activists said at least nine people were killed by security forces across Syria today, including four activists who were ambushed in the northern Jabal al-Zawiya region.

AP

Suggested Topics
PROMOTED VIDEO
News
ebookA powerful collection of reportage on Egypt’s cycle of awakening and relapse
News
video
Life and Style
tech
Arts and Entertainment
Up my street: The residents of the elegant Moray Place in Edinburgh's Georgian New Town
tvBBC's The Secret History of Our Streets reveals a fascinating window into Britain's past
Arts and Entertainment
Southern charm: Nicolas Cage and Tye Sheridan in ‘Joe’
filmReview: Actor delivers astonishing performance in low budget drama
Arts and Entertainment
While many films were released, few managed to match the success of James Bond blockbuster 'Skyfall'
film
Extras
indybest
News
Albus Dumbledore, the headmaster of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry has been the teaching profession's favourite teacher
education
Sport
Luis Suarez looks towards the crowd during the 2-1 victory over England
sport
Life and Style
Cheesecake frozen yoghurt by Constance and Mathilde Lorenzi
food + drinkThink outside the cool box for this summer’s frozen treats
News
John Barrowman kisses his male “bride” at a mock Gretna Green during the Commonwealth Games opening ceremony
peopleBarrowman's opening ceremony message to Commonwealth countries where he would be sent to prison for being gay
Sport
Sir Bradley Wiggins removes his silver medal after the podium ceremony for the men’s 4,000m team pursuit in Glasgow yesterday
Commonwealth games Disappointment for Sir Bradley in team pursuit final as England are forced to settle for silver
Sport
Alistair Brownlee (right) celebrates with his gold medal after winning the men’s triathlon alongside brother Jonny (left), who got silver
England's Jodie Stimpson won the women’s triathlon in the morning
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

SQL Report Analyst (SSRS, CA, SQL 2012)

£30000 - £38500 Per Annum + 25 days holiday, pension, subsidised restaurant: C...

Application Support Analyst (SQL, Incident Management, SLAs)

£34000 - £37000 Per Annum + excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Lt...

Embedded Software / Firmware Engineer

£40000 - £45000 per annum + Pension, Holiday, Flexi-time: Progressive Recruitm...

Developer - WinForms, C#

£280 - £320 per day: Progressive Recruitment: C#, WinForms, Desktop Developmen...

Day In a Page

Backhanders, bribery and abuses of power have soared in China as economy surges

Bribery and abuses of power soar in China

The bribery is fuelled by the surge in China's economy but the rules of corruption are subtle and unspoken, finds Evan Osnos, as he learns the dark arts from a master
Commonwealth Games 2014: Highland terriers stole the show at the opening ceremony

Highland terriers steal the show at opening ceremony

Gillian Orr explores why a dog loved by film stars and presidents is finally having its day
German art world rocked as artists use renowned fat sculpture to distil schnapps

Brewing the fat from artwork angers widow of sculptor

Part of Joseph Beuys' 1982 sculpture 'Fettecke' used to distil schnapps
BBC's The Secret History of Our Streets reveals a fascinating window into Britain's past

BBC takes viewers back down memory lane

The Secret History of Our Streets, which returns with three films looking at Scottish streets, is the inverse of Benefits Street - delivering warmth instead of cynicism
Joe, film review: Nicolas Cage delivers an astonishing performance in low budget drama

Nicolas Cage shines in low-budget drama Joe

Cage plays an ex-con in David Gordon Green's independent drama, which has been adapted from a novel by Larry Brown
Ford Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time, with sales topping 4.1 million since 1976

Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time

Sales have topped 4.1 million since 1976. To celebrate this milestone, four Independent writers recall their Fiestas with pride
How to make your own gourmet ice lollies, granitas, slushy cocktails and frozen yoghurt

Make your own ice lollies and frozen yoghurt

Think outside the cool box for this summer's tempting frozen treats
10 best reed diffusers

Heaven scent: 10 best reed diffusers

Keep your rooms smelling summery and fresh with one of these subtle but distinctive home fragrances that’ll last you months
Commonwealth Games 2014: Female boxers set to compete for first time

Female boxers set to compete at Commonwealth Games for first time

There’s no favourites and with no headguards anything could happen
Five things we’ve learned so far about Manchester United under Louis van Gaal

Five things we’ve learned so far about United under Van Gaal

It’s impossible to avoid the impression that the Dutch manager is playing to the gallery a little
Screwing your way to the top? Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth

Screwing your way to the top?

Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth, says Grace Dent
Will the young Britons fighting in Syria be allowed to return home and resume their lives?

Will Britons fighting in Syria be able to resume their lives?

Tony Blair's Terrorism Act 2006 has made it an offence to take part in military action abroad with a "political, ideological, religious or racial motive"
Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter, the wartime poster girl who became a feminist pin-up

Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter

The wartime poster girl became the ultimate American symbol of female empowerment
The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones: Are custom, 3D printed earbuds the solution?

The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones

Earphones don't fit properly, offer mediocre audio quality and can even be painful. So the quest to design the perfect pair is music to Seth Stevenson's ears
US Army's shooting star: Lt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a military uniform

Meet the US Army's shooting star

Lt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a military uniform