Syria Troops Kill 20 a Day after Peace Plan Accordإقرأ هذا الخبر بالعربية
Syrian troops killed 20 civilians and arrested dozens on Thursday, a rights watchdog said, a day after Damascus pledged to withdraw its forces from protest hubs under an Arab League plan to end the bloodshed.
"Twenty civilians were killed today in several neighborhoods of Homs where the sound of gunfire can still be heard," said the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights in a statement received by Agence France Presse.
The Observatory earlier reported nine dead in Homs, where Syrian forces reportedly used tank-mounted heavy machineguns a day after Damascus pledged to withdraw its troops from protest hubs under a deal to end months of bloodshed.
As activists called for mass demonstrations to test the genuineness of the government's commitment to the peace blueprint, the largest opposition group held talks in Cairo with Arab League chief Nabil al-Arabi to voice concerns.
"We told the secretary general of our fears that the regime will not keep its promises," Samir al-Nashar, a member of the executive bureau of the opposition Syrian National Council told reporters in Cairo.
Arabi briefed them on the peace plan, which also calls on embattled Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to engage in a national dialogue with his opponents, said Nashar, adding that the SNC does not want talks but for Assad to quit.
"We are not talking about a dialogue. We offered to engage in negotiations to move from an authoritarian regime to a democratic regime. And we ask that Bashar al-Assad resign," he said.
The SNC, the largest and most representative Syrian opposition grouping, on Wednesday urged the Arab League to freeze Syria's membership in the 22-member organization and recognize it as the sole representative of the opposition.
Assad's opponents are skeptical about the regime's readiness to rein in a brutal crackdown that the United Nations says has cost more than 3,000 lives since mid-March.
London and Washington said that despite Damascus's agreement to the Arab League plan after weeks of prevarication, they still believed Assad must heed the demands of anti-government protesters and step down.
Hours after Syria agreed to the Arab plan its security forces pressed on with the crackdown.
Twenty people were killed in several flashpoint neighbourhoods of Homs as gunfire continued to explode across the city, the Observatory said.
Security forces also arrested "more than 80 people at dawn in Deir al-Zour (eastern Syria) and neighboring districts," it added.
Under the hard-won deal announced at a meeting of Arab foreign ministers in Cairo late on Wednesday, the Syrian government is supposed to withdraw its troops from all protest centers, although the text set no timetable.
The blueprint agreed by Syria, a copy of which was obtained by AFP, provides for a "complete halt to the violence to protect civilians."
It calls for the "release of people detained as a result of the recent events, the withdrawal of forces from towns and districts where there have been armed clashes and the granting of access to the Arab League and Arab and international media."
It also stipulates that "the Arab ministerial committee (headed by the prime minister of Qatar) will conduct consultations with the government and the various Syrian opposition parties aimed at launching a national dialogue."
The text did not specify a venue for the dialogue. That is a bone of contention between the government, which insists on Damascus, and the opposition, which says it should be outside Syria.
Meanwhile, an Arab diplomat said the ministerial task force is expected to visit Syria soon to follow up on the implementation of the agreement
But skepticism prevailed among regime opponents.
The Local Coordination Committees (LCC), which organizes anti-regime protests, said it doubted "the integrity of the Syrian regime's acceptance of the points suggested by the Arab League's initiative."
The group urged Syrians to stage "peaceful protests" to "validate whether armed forces ... have been withdrawn from the cities and towns, and whether violence has been stopped, detainees have been released, Arab and international media correspondents have been allowed in the country and if a dialogue has been made possible."
"May tomorrow, Friday, be the day where all streets and squares become platforms for demonstrations and for the peaceful struggle towards achieving the downfall of the regime."
The Arab League plan won international endorsement, with U.N. chief Ban Ki-moon saying it was vital that Assad's regime now swiftly implement the terms of the roadmap "as soon as possible as agreed."
The United States and Britain echoed his comments.
"As the Arab League has made clear, it is vital that the plan is implemented quickly and fully," said British Foreign Secretary William Hague, adding that the only real way to end the bloodshed was for Assad to go.
Washington agreed that Assad should resign because he "lost his legitimacy to rule," said White House spokesman Jay Carney.
Qatari Prime Minister Sheikh Hamad bin Jassem al-Thani, who led the Arab League's mediation efforts, said "if Syria does not respect its commitments, the ministerial committee will meet again and take the necessary decisions."