Grim milestone passed in Syria

The United Nations says at least 3500 Syrian civilians have been killed in President Assad's brutal crackdown on dissent.

And despite an agreement reached between Syria and the Arab League to halt the attacks on civilians, withdraw the Syrian military, and release political prisoners, the slaughter continues unabated.


Syria's representative to the Arab League, said Damascus had "gone a long away" toward implementing the plan, pointing to the release of around 500 detainees under a conditional amnesty announced last week.

But Arab and Western powers are getting increasingly frustrated with Damascus' failure to stem the crackdown. Qatar's prime minister has called for Arab states to meet on Saturday to discuss it, while France's foreign minister said Syria was witnessing "a new round of repression".

Residents in Homs, Syria's third largest city which has been at the forefront of seven months of protests against Assad's rule, said troops had entered a residential district on Monday and were consolidating their control.

"I sneaked in to see my father today, who was hit by shrapnel. The number of troops and shabbiha (militia) in Bab Amro is now in the thousands and the looting is rampant," a resident who gave his name as Sami said by phone.

He said he saw militiamen and soldiers in one neighborhood carrying refrigerators, televisions and computer screens and putting them in jeeps and pick-up trucks. A school was turned into a detention center where scores of youths were laid out in the courtyard with their hands tied behind their backs, he said.

The fact that Syria claims that "500 detainees" have been released is laughable. Observers place the actual number of political prisoners at more than 10,000.

According to human rights groups who are closely monitoring the situation in Syria, at least 60 civilians have been killed - most of them in Homs - since the agreement was supposed to have gone into effect last week.

This would seem to indicate Assad has no intention of letting up on those who are opposing his brutal rule.