Dozens killed in Syria, new death penalty law imposed
More than fifty people were killed Tuesday in violence across Syria while President Bashar al-Assad signed a law imposing the death penalty on anyone found guilty of arming "terrorists," according to activists and state media, dpa reported.
"Twenty six people were killed in the Baba Amro neighborhood of Homs when security forces shelled the area as night fell," Omar Homsi, an activist based in the province around the central city of Homs told dpa by phone.
Meanwhile, activists based in Idlib province, near the Syrian-Turkish border, where heavy clashes have been raging since Monday between regular army units and army defectors, told dpa that some 24 people, mostly dissidents, were killed Tuesday, and more than 50 others wounded.
The violence came a day after Syria signed an Arab League protocol to allow observers into the country, as part of a broader plan to end ten months of a brutal regime crackdown on pro-democracy protests which has killed so far 5,000 people, according to the United Nations.
Earlier Tuesday, Syrian state-run media said al-Assad had signed a law imposing the death penalty on anyone "providing weapons or helping to provide weapons intended for the carrying out of terrorist acts."
The decree also imposes life imprisonment with hard labour for arms smuggling "for profit or to carry out acts of terrorism," and 15 years' hard labour for arms smuggling for other purposes.
The Syrian authorities have been blaming the unrest in the country since mid-March on what they described as "terrorist groups" financed by Arab and Western countries to destabilize Syria.
The decree came as an Arab League advance team is expected to travel on Thursday to Syria to prepare the ground for an observer mission agreed to by Damascus this week.
"A 12-member advance team will be led by the Arab League's assistant secretary-general, Sameer Saif el-Yazal," an Arab diplomat whose country will participate in the monitoring mission told dpa in Beirut.
Arab League chief Nabil al-Arabi told reporters Monday that the advance delegation will include legal, administrative, financial and human rights experts.
However, no dates have yet been set for monitoring missions to follow the advance team, sources at the Cairo-based organization said.
The violence in Syria prompted Arab leaders gathered in Saudi Arabia for the annual summit of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), to urge Syria to "immediately halt its killing machine, put an end to bloodshed, lift all signs of armed conflict and release prisoners, as a first step towards implementing the Arab (League) deal."