Syrian troops killed 17 people on Friday as demonstrators, denouncing “despots and tyrants,” took to the streets to test the regime’s commitment to an Arab peace deal calling for an end to violence.
Washington had already warned that the signs were not encouraging after troops killed 20 civilians on Thursday — the first day the hard-won agreement aimed at ending nearly eight month of bloodshed came into effect.
France echoed the US concerns today, saying Syria was breaking its commitments to the Arab deal by continuing a deadly crackdown on protesters, and cast doubt on President Bashar al-Assad’s dedication to the deal.
As more deaths were reported, the government offered an amnesty to anyone who surrenders weapons by November 12, linking the offer to the Eid al-Adha Muslim feast that begins on Sunday.
Troops raked several residential neighbourhoods of Homs — a city of some one million people that has been one of the hubs of the protests raging since mid-March — which heavy machineguns mounted on tanks, a watchdog said.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said 15 people were killed across Syria, six of them in Homs.
Further north in Hama four civilians were shot, while four people were killed in the town of Kanaker, outside the capital, and a protester was shot dead by security forces in Damascus.
Two more people were killed, one of them an army deserter, when troops opened fire on a group of people trying to slip across the border into Jordan, the Britain-based Observatory said.
In the Mediterranean coastal city of Banias, security forces laid siege to the Abu Bakr Siddiq mosque and beat up worshippers as they attempted to demonstrate after weekly prayers, it said.
The Arab League put Syria to task on Friday and said Arab and international media should apply to Syrian authorities to enter the country, since unfettered media access was part of the deal approved by Syria.
Meanwhile, Syrian authorities announced an amnesty to mark the end of the annual Muslim hajj, or pilgrimage, and the start Sunday of Eid al-Adha feast.