BEIRUT - Government forces in Syria intensified their attack on pro-democracy protesters and army defectors yesterday, leaving 14 people dead, as the Arab League chief warned of "disaster" if the violence continued.
Syrian troops heavily shelled the restive town of Homs, killing 10 civilians. The shelling targeted the Baba Amr neighborhood for the fourth consecutive day, also leaving 20 injured, activists based in Lebanon said.
"Houses were set ablaze due to the heavy shelling, and houses were riddled with shrapnel," they added.
The London-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said that "the sound of explosions was also heard in the area of Karm el-Zaytoun" in the flash point central city.
In the northwestern province of Idlib, near the border with Turkey, four members of the Shabiha pro-government militia were killed in the town of Saraqeb, reportedly by army deserters, the Syrian Observatory said.
Meanwhile, the secretary general of the Arab League, Nabil al-Arabi, said that "the failure of the Arab initiative would have disastrous consequences on the situation in Syria and the region as a whole."
He also warned the various parties against ignoring the Arab League plan, agreed to this week, which called on the government to withdraw its troops from the streets, release all political prisoners, grant foreign media free access to Syria and hold talks with opposition. His statement comes as authorities promise to withdraw troops from the streets today.
"Syria means what it says and we will implement the Arab League agreement, every aspect of it. If we agree to something, we do it," the deputy foreign minister, Abdulfattah Ammura, told Britain's Daily Telegraph newspaper, in remarks published yesterday.
"We are working on it. We will see it very shortly, hopefully before [today's Muslim holiday] Id al-Adha," Ammura said.
Damascus accepted the plan on Wednesday. But the regime's crackdown on protesters continued, with more than 39 people killed in the last two days, according to opposition activists.
More than 3,000 people, including at least 187 children, have been killed in the crackdown on pro-democracy protesters since mid-March, according to the United Nations.
Meanwhile, the Syrian state-run media strongly condemned Washington yesterday after the U.S. State Department advised Syrians against surrendering following an amnesty for those who give up weapons.
"The American administration disclosed again its blatant interference in Syria's internal affairs, and its policy which supports killing, in addition to its funding of the terrorist groups in Syria," SANA state news agency said, citing a foreign ministry official.
Syria's interior ministry announced an amnesty on Friday for people who surrender their weapons between yesterday and November 12 in a concession to mark the Id al-Adha feast, state television reported.
The U.S. State Department on Friday advised Syrians against surrendering to President Bashar al-Assad's regime.
"I wouldn't advise anybody to turn themselves in to regime authorities at the moment," said spokeswoman Victoria Nuland on Friday.
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