The Arab League has approved sanctions against Syria, which could include halting co-operation with the nation’s central bank and stopping flights to the country.
The 22-nation body voted 19-3 to impose the sanctions on the recommendations at its headquarters in Cairo, Egypt, on Sunday.
|Alan Fisher on the proceedings of the Arab League meeting|
The Syrian state-owned Al-Thawra newspaper said the move was “unprecedented and contradicts the rules of Arab co-operation”, announcing on its frontpage that the proposed sanctions were “targeting the Syrian people”.
The league’s recommendations for sanctions specified that the Arab bloc will assist Syria with emergency aid through the help of the International Red Cross and Red Crescent, working with local civilian groups to deliver goods.
Syrian neighbours Iraq and Lebanon have already expressed reservations about the sanctions.
Meanwhile, activists reported fierce clashes in the flashpoint city of Homs, in central Syria, pitting soldiers against army defectors.
“Violent clashes occurred this morning between Syria’s regular army and groups of deserters in the region of Talbiseh. Two troop transporters were destroyed,” the UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.
“The regular army is using heavy machineguns in its operations in Talbiseh … Four civilians have been wounded.”
The Syrian Revolution General Commission, a committee part of the Syrian National Council, told Al Jazeera’s Nisreen El-Shamayleh, who is reporting from Jordan, that a total of 19 people have been killed on Sunday.
According to their figures, 12 people in Homs, four in the Damascus suburbs, one in Deir Ezzour, one in Idlib, and one in Tartous.
There have been growing reports of army defectors and armed civilians fighting government forces – a development that
some say plays into the leadership’s hands by giving government troops a pretext to crack down with overwhelming force.
Many of the attacks against security forces are believed to be carried out by a group of army defectors known as the Free Syrian Army.
On Sunday, Jordanian Foreign Minister Nasser Judeh acknowledged that 100 Syrian military and police deserters have taken refuge in the kingdom throughout the uprising.
Syria is facing mounting international pressure to end the bloody crackdown on the uprising against President Bashar al-Assad, which the UN says has killed at least 3,500 people.
The European Union and the US have imposed several rounds of sanctions, including a ban on the import of Syrian oil.
The Arab League had set a Friday deadline for Damascus to allow rights monitors into the country or face sanctions, but the deadline passed with no firm commitment from Syrian officials.
Walid al-Muallem, Syrian foreign minister, sent a critical letter to the organisation, accusing it of trying to “internationalise” the conflict in Syria.
Muallem called the sanctions an invitation “for foreign intervention instead of a call to avoid one … what we understand, by this latest Arab League decision, is a tacit green light for the internationalisation of the situation in Syria and to meddle in its domestic affairs”.