A team of Arab observers headed to Syria yesterday as neighboring Turkey condemned Syrian President Bashar al-Assad for turning his country into a “bloodbath” after the regime killed more than 200 people this week alone, drawing international condemnation and dramatically raising the death toll in the nine-month uprising.
More than 100 people were killed just outside the village of Kfar Owaid, about 50km from the northern border with Turkey in Syria’s Idlib Province on Tuesday. Government troops surrounded residents and activists in a valley, then unleashed a barrage of rockets, tank shells, bombs and gunfire in an hours-long assault that one activist described as an “organized massacre.”
The UN says more than 5,000 people have died since March as Syria has sought to put down the uprising — part of the Arab Spring of protests that has toppled long-serving unpopular leaders in Tunisia, Egypt and Libya.
On Wednesday, the administration of US President Barack Obama accused the Syrian government of continuing to “mow down” its people and the French foreign ministry said everything must be done to stop this “murderous spiral.”
Turkey, once a close Syria ally, said in a statement early yesterday that the violence was in stark contrast to the spirit of the Arab League deal Syria signed on to and that it is raising doubts about Syria’s “true intentions.”
“We strongly condemn the Syrian leadership’s policies of oppression against its own people, which are turning the country into a bloodbath,” a Turkish foreign ministry statement said.
It said no administration “can come out a winner from a struggle against its own people.”
Despite the latest violence, the Arab League appeared to be going ahead with plans to send in its first delegation of monitors yesterday.
The advance team, led by the Arab League Assistant Secretary-General Sameer Seif el-Yazal was scheduled to arrive in Syria later in the day. The team is to arrange logistics for an upcoming mission of about 20 experts in military affairs and human rights, which will head for Syria on Sunday, led by Lieutenant General Mohammed Ahmed Mustafa of Sudan.
Another team of 100 observers will leave for Syria within two weeks, according to the plan.
Syrian activists have accused al-Assad’s regime of an “organized massacre” in Idlib.
Members of Syria’s opposition said the bloodshed outside the village of Kfar Owaid was evidence of the authoritarian leader’s intent to intensify the crackdown on the uprising before the Arab League observers arrive.
The death toll from two days of violence this week topped 200, including up to 70 army defectors killed near the city of Idlib, the activists said.