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At least 70 people have been killed in violence across Syria over the past 24 hours in one of the bloodiest days since an anti-government uprising began eight months ago, activists reported.
The UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said on Tuesday that 27 civilians were shot dead by security forces and 34 soldiers as well as 12 suspected army deserters were killed in clashes.
Most of the victims were killed in the southern flashpoint province of Deraa, the observatory said in a statement.
“Twenty-three people were shot dead by security forces posted along the road between the towns of Kherbet Ghazale and Hirak,” the statement said.
At least four other civilians were killed by security force fire in the city of Homs, a protest hub in central Syria, the rights group reported.
Meanwhile, Tayyip Erdogan, Turkey’s prime minister, said he no longer has confidence in the Syrian regime, warning Syrian President Bashar al-Assad that his country is on a “knife edge” and the brutal crackdown threatens to place Assad on a list of leaders who “feed on blood”.
Turkey has also threatened to cut electricity supplies to Syria.
“Right now, as of Tuesday, we are supplying electricity there [to Syria], but if this course continues, we may have to review all of these decisions,” Taner Yildiz, Turkey’s energy minister, said.
Al Jazeera’s Rula Amin reporting from the capital of Lebanon said she spoke to an opposition activist who told her it is the Syrian people who will be effected the most if Turkey cut electricity to Syria “so he didn’t get what type of logic was behind it”.
Turkey’s strong words come as Syrian television has reported that the government has released 1,180 prisoners.
The prisoners released “were described as having no blood on their hand”, Amin said.
Human rights activists inside Syria told Amin that “there are about 30,000 prisoners still in jail in Syria so this number is a drop in the bucket”.
Overcoming the crisis
A delegation from the main Syrian opposition bloc, the Syrian National Council (SNC), visited Moscow for talks with Russian diplomats.
Burhan Ghalioun, the Paris-based head of the SNC who led the delegation to Russia, said: “The Russian foreign minister has confirmed the need for an Arab initiative because decisions by the ministerial meeting of the Arab League uphold the Arab peace initiative and don’t contradict it.”
Russia has repeatedly opposed Western efforts to impose sanctions against its traditional Middle Eastern ally over its lethal crackdown on protests, insisting on the need for dialogue.
Al Jazeera’s Nisreen el-Shamayleh, reporting from the Jordanian capital Amman, spoke to activists who told her they consider the position of Russia “shameful”.
“They also said that there are reports that early on Tuesday a new shipment of tanks arrived at the Port of Latakia in Syria and that it could be traced back to Russia,” el-Shamayleh said.
The latest developments come ahead of an Arab League meeting in Cairo on Wednesday where the bloc could suspend Syria’s membership over the government’s crackdown on protests.
Walid al-Muallem, Syria’s foreign minister condemned the League’s announcement at a press conference on Monday and said the suspension of Syria from the Arab League is “illegal” and “dangerous”.
A Jordanian official says his country’s embassy in Damascus was attacked after Jordan’s king criticised the Syrian president’s violent crackdown on eight months of protests.
Foreign Ministry spokesman Mohammad Kayed says about 100 demonstrators gathered outside the embassy on Monday after King Abdullah II told the BBC that Assad should step down.
Three protesters scaled the embassy fence and took down the Jordanian flag, Kayed said on Tuesday. He said that no one entered the embassy, nor were there any injuries.
Erdogan also urged Assad to punish those responsible for attacks on Sunday on Turkish diplomatic missions in Syria.
Addressing Assad by his first name, Erdogan said: “Bashar, you who have thousands of people in jail, must find the culprits and punish them.”
Al Jazeera’s Amin said: “This [remark] is not coming out of the blue we are seeing pressure mounting from all sides.”
The UN says 3,500 people have been killed in Assad’s crackdown on the protests and human rights groups say security forces have carried out killings and torture which constitute crimes against humanity.
Authorities blame armed groups for the violence, saying at least 1,100 soldiers and police have been killed since the uprising broke out in March.