Observer team set for Damascus mission

Observer team set for Damascus mission

Observer team set for Damascus mission

Soldiers walk down the street in Daraa. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights group said at least 100 army deserters killed on tha day Syria signs the Arab League deal. AP photo

An observer team will head to Syria tomorrow to prepare the way for monitors overseeing a deal to end months of bloodshed amid plans by Damascus to implement the death penalty for anyone convicted of distributing weapons for “terrorist acts.”

 “An advance team headed by Arab League Assistant Secretary-General Samir Seif al-Yazal will head to Damascus [tomorrow],” Assistant Secretary-General Ahmed Bin Helli told reporters, Agence France-Presse reported.

 The advance team will include security, legal and administrative observers, with human rights experts expected to follow, the league said. The Arab bloc has also named Gen. Mohammed Ahmed Mustafa al-Dabi – former head of Sudanese military intelligence and state minister for security arrangements – to head the observer mission, Bin Helli said.

Al-Dabi, who coordinated between the Sudanese government and the joint United Nations-African Union peacekeeping troops in the western Sudanese region of Darfur, is expected in Cairo in the coming days.

Meanwhile, state-run Syrian news agency SANA said yesterday anyone found guilty of weapons smuggling would be handed sentences ranging from 15 years to life imprisonment. Those smuggling and distributing weapons with the aim of carrying out terrorist acts would be sentenced to death, Associated Press reported.

Elsewhere, Turkey’s foreign minister spoke to the secretary-general of the Arab League by phone Dec. 19 about recent developments regarding Syria. Diplomatic sources said Ahmet Davutoğlu once more expressed Turkey’s support of the Arab League’s Syria initiative while speaking to Nabil el-Araby.
At least 100 Syrian army deserters were killed or wounded in new clashes yesterday as Damascus faced demands to halt its bloody nine-month crackdown on dissent a day after signing an Arab peace plan.

“After clashes that broke out this morning with the regular army, 100 deserters were besieged then killed or wounded between the villages of Kafruwed and Al-Fatira” in the Idlib district of Jabal al-Zawia, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights group said.

The group also said three civilians were killed yesterday in addition to the military casualties in the northwestern Idlib province.

The Gulf Cooperation Council has also called on 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 toward implementing the [Arab League] protocol” that Damascus agreed to Dec. 19.

Syria has further decided to slash public sector spending in a bid to head off a crisis for an economy that has taken a beating due to months of unrest and sanctions, media said yesterday.