Middle East
Fresh deaths reported across Syria
Activists say at least 13 more people killed ahead of Red Cross chief's meeting with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
Last Modified: 04 Sep 2011 18:59

Syrian pro-democracy activists say at least 13 people have been killed in anti-government protests.

The reports of the deaths came on Sunday as the head of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) met senior Syrian officials in the capital, Damascus.

Jakob Kellenberger, the ICRC chief met Walid al-Muallem, the Syrian foreign minister, on Sunday and is scheduled to meet President Bashar al-Assad on Monday to to discuss the organisation's access to detainees held since anti-government unrest began in March.

Security forces shot dead eight people in Idlib province in the country's northwestern on Sunday, the Local Co-ordination Committees (LCC), which groups anti-government activists on the ground, said.

"Security forces, backed by the army, carried out an incursion in Khan Sheikhoun and opened fire", the LCC said.

Security forces had surrounded hospitals "to prevent the wounded from being brought in for treatment", according to the LCC.

The group said the total death toll on Sunday was 14, with four people also killed in suburbs of the central city of Hama. Deaths were also reported in Homs and in Jisren on the outskirts of Damascus.

Activist groups told Al Jazeera that at least seven people died on Saturday, with four of those killed in Idlib, including one soldier who refused to open fire on protesters.

Red Cross visit

The visit by Kellenberger comes with the ICRC seeking access to prisons where thousands of activists and other civilians arrested in anti-government protests are believed to be held.

"The ICRC visits detainees in order to assess the conditions in which they are being held and the treatment they receive," the ICRC said in a statement on Saturday.

It said Kellenberger would also raise the issue of enhanced access to areas of unrest.

"Ensuring that the sick and the wounded have access to medical care will be among the particularly urgent humanitarian challenges to be addressed with the Syrian authorities," the ICRC said.

In-depth coverage of escalating violence across Syria

For prison visits, the ICRC has insisted on its standard terms, including full access to all detention centres, the right to interview detainees in private and make follow-up visits.

The ICRC sought access for years to Syrian prisoners but stepped up its requests when the uprising first erupted in March.

Meanwhile, Nabil el-Araby, the Arab League chief, said he may visit Syria this week to voice Arab worries about violence there.

"The Syrian government told me that it welcomes the visit of the secretary-general at any time, and it will probably be this week," he said at the group's headquarters in Cairo.

He said he would "communicate the Arab worries about the incidents in Syria and listen to the opinion
of the Syrian authorities".

On August 28, Arab foreign ministers agreed to send el-Araby to Damascus to push for political and economic reforms and asked Syria to end months of bloodshed "before it's too late".

Syrian authorities have consistently blamed the unrest on "armed gangs and terrorists". SANA, the state news agency, said that an "armed terrorist gang" ambushed a bus near Hama on Sunday morning, killing nine people, including one officer and five non-commissioned officers.

"Nine people, among them an officer, were killed and 17 others wounded this morning in Maharda in an ambush by an armed group who opened fire on a bus carrying soldiers and labourers going to work," SANA said.

Al Jazeera and agencies
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