Three killed in Syrian crackdown as Arab ultimatum nears
At least three civilians were killed Saturday when Syrian security forces raided central towns and made arrests, hours before a deadline for Damascus to stop its repression against pro-democracy protesters was set to expire, opposition activists said, dpa reported.
"The security forces stormed the town of Deir al-Zour near the region of Hama and killed three protesters," Omar Idlibi, an activist based in Beirut, told dpa
"Government soldiers also entered the town of Shayzar in Hama after shelling it with heavy artillery, hunting for army defectors," he added.
There were no immediate reports on possible casualties.
A wide-scale government crackdown was, meanwhile, being carried out on the town of Maaret al-Nemaan near the border with Turkey, a search for army deserters who had attacked military facilities, added the activists.
The latest violence came as the Arab League ultimatum to Syria to halt its lethal clampdown on opposition was to expire at 2200 GMT.
The head of the Arab League, Nabil al-Arabi, said Friday that Syria had requested amendments to the organization's proposals to send observers to the country, making it unclear whether it had accepted the plan.
An Arab diplomat, based in Beirut, told dpa Saturday that Damascus had demanded 18 clauses be amended in the plan.
He expected the Arab League to issue a statement on Syria later Saturday.
"Syria is refusing to allow monitors into hospitals and prisons. It also does not want civilian activists among the monitors," the diplomat said on condition of anonymity.
According to him, Damascus was insisting that Syrian security and army personnel accompany the monitors during their mission.
Bassima Kaddamani, a spokeswoman for the opposition Syrian National Council, accused Saturday the Syrian government of stalling for time to "kill more people."
"This regime is playing for time, thinking that it can crush the uprising," Kaddamani told the broadcaster Al Jazeera.
More than 3,500 people have been killed in Syria since mid-March, according to the United Nations.