Syria crisis: Scores reported killed as violence grows

Syria crisisScores of people have been killed in Syria, opposition activists say, in a second day of heavy bloodshed.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights put the death toll at 47, while the Local Co-ordination Committees said as many as 78 people were killed.Meanwhile video has emerged of a young boy, whose body was apparently torn in half by shelling in the city of Homs.In the north-west, dozens of army deserters, security forces members and civilians reportedly died in clashes.The claims have not been independently verified, as foreign media are banned from reporting in Syria.The UN says more than 5,000 people have been killed across Syria since protests against President Bashar al-Assad erupted in March.

Damascus says it is fighting “armed terrorist gangs”, who want to destabilise the country.The London-based Observatory said that at least 23 people were killed in clashes between army deserters and the security forces in the north-western province of Idlib on Tuesday.It said that dozens of civilians remained besieged by an army offensive in two villages in the Jabal al-Zawiya area.The group also cited defectors as saying that 100 of their colleagues were “killed or wounded between the villages”, the AFP news agency reported.

The LCC put the death toll in Idlib at 59.Both groups also reported deaths in Homs, Hama and Deraa.Video footage emerged on Tuesday, allegedly showing the body of a young boy torn in half in the ruins of two houses hit by army shelling in Homs.Meanwhile, Syria’s air and naval forces conducted live-fire manoeuvres aimed testing their readiness to repulse “any aggression against the homeland,” the official Sana news agency reported.On Monday, more than 70 soldiers were shot dead after deserting their positions in Idlib, activists said.

Syrian opposition sources said the army was intensifying its campaign in Idlib ahead of the expected deployment of observers who will monitor the Syrian government’s implementation of an Arab League peace initiative.League officials have said that the first monitors could be in the country as early as Thursday.This follows the announcement that Damascus had agreed to the observer mission on Monday.

Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Muallem said the country’s sovereignty would be protected because the Arab League had agreed to amendments to the deal, which also calls for all violence to be halted, for the withdrawal of troops from the streets, and the release of detainees.The observers would be “free” in their movements and “under the protection of the Syrian government”, Mr Muallem added, but would not be allowed to visit sensitive military sites.

The observers will have a one-month mandate that can be extended by another month if both sides agree.The leader of the Syrian National Council, an opposition umbrella group, has dismissed the government’s decision as “just a ploy”.Activists say that if the government does withdraw the army, many areas will immediately fall out of its control. – BBC