Rights Group: Syria Troops Executed Civilians
A leading international human rights group says Syrian forces have summarily executed more than 100 people, most of them civilians.
Monday’s report by Human Rights Watch says this includes several mass executions in the restive provinces of Homs and Idlib. The New-York-based group says it only included cases corroborated by witnesses but has received more reports of similar incidents.
The executions took place over the past four months, with most in March.
Syrian forces are escalating attacks across the country to try to crush a 13-month uprising against President Bashar Assad.
An internationally brokered truce requires Syrian forces to pull out of population centers by Tuesday. But Assad’s government now wants guarantees that rebels will lay down their arms.
THIS IS A BREAKING NEWS UPDATE. Check back soon for further information. AP’s earlier story is below.
BEIRUT (AP) — A U.N.-brokered plan to stop the bloodshed in Syria effectively collapsed Sunday after President Bashar Assad’s government raised new, last-minute demands that the country’s largest rebel group swiftly rejected.
The truce plan, devised by U.N.-Arab League envoy Kofi Annan, was supposed to go into effect on Tuesday, with a withdrawal of Syrian forces from population centers, followed within 48 hours by a cease-fire by both sides in the uprising against four decades of repressive rule by the Assad family.
But on Sunday, Syria’s Foreign Ministry said that ahead of any troop pullback, the government needs written guarantees from opposition fighters that they will lay down their weapons.
The commander of the rebel Free Syrian Army, Riad al-Asaad, said that while his group is ready to abide by a truce, it does not recognize the regime “and for that reason we will not give guarantees.”
Annan’s spokesman had no comment on the setback. The envoy has not said what would happen if his deadlines were ignored.
Even before the setback, expectations were low that the Assad regime would honor the agreement.
Russia, an Assad ally that supports the cease-fire plan, may now be the only one able to salvage it. The rest of the international community, unwilling to contemplate military intervention, has little leverage over Syria.
In recent days, instead of preparing for a withdrawal, regime troops have stepped up shelling attacks on residential areas, killing dozens of civilians every day in what the opposition described as a frenzied rush to gain ground. Activists said at least 21 people were killed in violence on Sunday and as many as 40.
“Mortar rounds are falling like rain,” said activist Tarek Badrakhan, describing an assault in the central city of Homs on Sunday. He spoke via Skype as explosions were heard in the background. The regime is exploiting the truce plan “to kill and commit massacres,” he said.