|Syria has said it would honour an Arab plan to end violence, but reports indicate that not much has changed [Reuters]|
Reports from Syria indicate that seven people have died in fresh clashes as the chief of the Arab League warned that failure of a peace deal agreed to this week would have devastating impact.
“The failure of the Arab solution would lead to catastrophic results for the situation in Syria and the region as a whole,”
Nabil Elaraby, the League’s secretary-general, said in a statement on Saturday.
To mark the Muslim feast of Eid al-Adha, meanwhile, Damascus freed 553 people arrested during anti-regime protests while condemning Washington for suggesting Syrians reject an amnesty offered to lay down their arms.
“At least three civilians were killed by gunfire and heavy machinegun fire in the Baba Amro neighbourhood of Homs,” the UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said in a statement received in Nicosia, Cyprus.
In the northwestern province of Idlib, near the Turkish border, “four (Shabiha) militiamen loyal to the regime were killed by suspected deserters in the town of Saraqeb,” the rights group said.
Syria had said on Wednesday it would abide by the Arab League plan to end seven months of violence triggered by
protests against President Bashar al-Assad.
Al Jazeera’s Rula Amin, reporting from Bierut, said there has yet to be any sign of the government’s intention to honor the peace plan. “On the face of it, not much has changed,” she said.
US advise condemned
Amin also pointed out that a week-long amnesty deal offered by the government to armed members of the opposition has had little effect on the unrest.
There are no reports that [protesters] are buying the government line,” Amin said in reference to the amnesty offer.
In Damascus, meanwhile, the government strongly condemned Washington after the US State Department advised Syrians against surrendering weapons.
“The American administration disclosed again its blatant interference in Syria’s internal affairs, and its policy which supports killing, in addition to its funding of the terrorist groups in Syria,” state news agency SANA quoted a foreign ministry official as saying.
The interior ministry had announced an amnesty for people who surrender their weapons between Saturday and November 12 in a concession to mark the Eid al-Adha feast, state television reported.
“I wouldn’t advise anybody to turn themselves in to regime authorities at the moment,” spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said after the Friday offer, adding that Assad’s regime had so far failed to live up to the Wednesday deal to end eight months of violence.
In his statement, Arab League’s Elaraby expressed “serious worry over the continuing violence” in Syria and “appealed to the Syrian government over the need to take immediate steps to protect civilians” and to set the country on the course of dialogue.
He said Arab states wanted avoid “foreign intervention”.
Elaraby said he had received reports in the past two days from Syria’s League representative about armed groups involved in “violent acts and sabotage” in Homs, Hama and other areas.
The Arab plan, which Damascus said it backed, called for a complete halt to violence, the release of prisoners, removing the military presence from cities and residential areas, and allowing the Arab League and media access to report on the situation.