Army chief of staff says members of Alawite minority could seek refuge in Israel if Assad’s government falls.
|A photo shows a vehicle said to belong to the Arab League mission with punctured tyres and dents in the body [Reuters]|
The Arab League has condemned an attack this week by protesters on monitors in the Syrian port city of Latakia, saying that the Syrian government has failed in its commitment to provide protection.
Eleven monitors, who are part of a mission to assess whether Syria is ending a crackdown on protests in line with an Arab League peace plan, were wounded lightly on Monday, an Arab League official said on Tuesday.
“Failing to provide adequate protection in Latakia and other areas where the mission is deployed is considered a serious violation by the government of its commitments,” the regional bloc said in a statement.
Nabil Elaraby, head of the Arab League, said in his statement the mission has faced a “tendentious campaign” since an Arab League meeting about Syria on Sunday. He said the mission could be halted if the attacks continued.
“The Arab League is keen on the pursuit of the mission in a secure atmosphere so as not to be obliged to freeze the operation,” he said.
Elaraby rejected “any pressure or provocation from any party, be it the government of the opposition” or any attempt to undermine the mission.
Elaraby also called on the Syrian government and opposition “to stop the campaign of provocation” carried out by elements close to both sides.
The 165-strong mission has come in for criticism from both the Syrian government and opposition groups seeking to end President Bashar al-Assad’s control over the country.
Arab League statement
The Arab League said in its statement that the mission was attacked by pro-Assad demonstrators in Latakia and Deir ez-Zor cities and by opposition protesters in other areas.
According to a source at the mission’s operations room in Cairo, angry protesters in Latakia broke the glass of the monitors’ vehicles, causing light injuries, although no one was admitted to hospital.
“The monitors were thumped and beaten, which resulted in one monitor’s mouth bleeding and bruises to the faces of four others,” the source told the Reuters news agency.
Assad’s critics say the monitoring mission has failed to halt the violence and simply hands the authorities more time to attack the population.
Syria says it is committed to co-operating with the monitors.
Walid al-Moualem, the Syrian foreign minister, told the head of the monitoring mission that Syria “will continue to bear its responsibility to secure and protect those monitors”, a foreign ministry statement said.
Moualem said Syria would “not allow any act to obstruct their mission”, according to the statement, and expressed his “condemnation of any act that the team has been exposed to which obstructs their mission”.
The Arab League said on Sunday that Syria had only partly kept its agreement to stop violence, withdraw troops from cities, free political prisoners, provide foreign media access to the country and open a dialogue with its opponents.
The organisation decided on Sunday to expand the mission and keep it going at least until it reports back again on January 19.
“The League stresses its determination that the delegation continue its field mission in a safe atmosphere for its members so it is not forced to freeze operations in case it senses their lives are in danger,” the Arab League said.
“The League also refuses any pressure or provocation from any party – government or opposition – or any attempt to deter the mission from performing its duty or hindering its work.”