Opposition calls for tougher stance on Syria, as UN raises toll

Opposition calls for tougher stance on Syria, as UN raises toll

Syria's opposition called on Tuesday for a tougher stance by the Arab League against President Bashar al-Assad's government, as the United Nations said the death toll during the eight-month unrest in the country now stood at 3,500, dpa reported.

The Syrian National Council (SNC), which groups major opposition figures aiming to unify the stance against al-Assad, urged the Arab League "to take a strong and effective position against the Syrian regime."

The council called on the League to freeze Syria's membership, impose economic and diplomatic sanctions on Syria and refer all human rights violations by the regime to the International Criminal Court.

Damascus faces fallout from the Arab League for not implementing a peace initiative it accepted from the 22-nation body.

Security forces continued their crackdown on pro-democracy protesters calling for the ouster of al-Assad, as the government blames "terrorist groups" for the unrest.

Arab foreign ministers are now scheduled to meet in Cairo on Saturday to discuss Syria's failure to implement the agreement.

Meanwhile the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights said that since Syria signed the peace plan sponsored by the Arab League last week, more than 60 people were reported to have been killed by military and security forces, "including at least 19 on Sunday that marked the (Muslim holiday) Eid al-Adha."

"The brutal government crackdown on dissents in Syria has so far claimed the lives of more than 3,500 Syrians," Ravina Shamdasani, the organization's spokeswoman, said in a statement.

"We are deeply concerned about the situation and by the government's failure to take heed of international and regional calls for an end to the bloodshed," she said.

Three people were killed on Tuesday when troops stormed Hama, north of Damascus, under a barrage of heavy shelling, a Syrian activist based in Lebanon said.

"Al-Assad's thugs are making house-to-house arrests in areas inside Hama, that has spiraled out of government control," Omar Idlibi told dpa. "After storming the city of Homs, now is the turn of Hama."

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said that clashes erupted in the city between government forces and army defectors.

Activists have declared the central city of Homs as a "humanitarian disaster stricken area, after around a week of tank bombardment that killed more than 110 people in the flashpoint city.

On Tuesday, three people were killed in Homs as government forces continued their crackdown on pro-democracy protesters, calling for the ouster of al-Assad, the London-based Syrian Observatory reported.

Homs province has been a major centre of resistance and reprisal against al-Assad's government.

In the north-western province of Idlib, eight soldiers were killed by gunmen believed to be army defectors in an ambush south of Maaret al-Numan town, the Syrian Observatory added.

Meanwhile, the Syrian National Council has called for a general strike on Thursday across Syria to protest what they described as "brutal killings" in Homs and Hama and also to urge the Arab League to help save the Syrian civilians.

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