Thirteen killed in Syria as Arab League deadline nears

Thirteen killed in Syria as Arab League deadline nears

At least 13 people were killed across Syria on Saturday and some 140 opposition activists were arrested, as the Arab League deadline for Damascus to end its violent crackdown on the opposition drew near, dpa reported.

Activists based in Lebanon told dpa that six people were killed in the restive central city of Homs, and three people were killed in Kafr Takhareem near the Turkish border, among them army defectors.

The latest casualties came during in a wide-scale search operation carried by security forces, an activist based in Lebanon told dpa.

The London-based Syrian observatory meanwhile said four intelligence agents, among them an officer, were killed Saturday by gunmen who opened fire on their car near the central town of Shayzar, north-west of the province of Hama.

According to the state-run news agency SANA, the security operation "was carried out accurately after raiding some hideouts of terrorist groups based on cross checked information and investigations."

Security authorities in northern Idlib province arrested "140 wanted men in different places in Jabal al-Zawiyeh and the rural area of Maaret al-Numaan," SANA said.

Activists meanwhile said 200 members of the opposition were arrested in Idlib, which is a known hub for army defectors.

Authorities have blamed "terrorist gangs" financed by Arab and Western countries to destabilize Syria for the unrest since the uprising against the government of President Bashar al-Assad began in mid-March.

More than 3,500 people have been killed across the country, according to the United Nations.

The latest round of violence comes as the Arab League ultimatum to Damascus to halt its lethal clampdown on the 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 that Damascus had demanded 18 clauses be amended in the Arab League plan to send some 500 observers.

"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.

He said Damascus was insisting that it provides security and army personnel to accompany the observers during their mission.

The opposition Syrian National Council on Saturday accused the government of stalling to "kill more people."

"This regime is playing for time, thinking that it can crush the uprising," council spokeswoman Bassima Kaddamani told broadcaster Al Jazeera.

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