Arab League chief Nabil al-Arabi May 31, 2012 (Reuters)
Arab League chief Nabil al-Arabi, May 31, 2012 Photo by Reuters
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The head of Arab League called Saturday on the United Nations Security Council to take action to protect civilians in Syria, as the opposition reported the killing of at least 22 people in violence.

"I urge you to move quickly to end all acts of violence in Syria, and to take the necessary measures to protect Syrian civilians, including increasing the number of international monitors," Nabil al-Arabi was quoted as saying by Qatar's state news agency.

Al-Arabi is in Qatar to attend an Arab League meeting on Syria.

A peace plan, proposed by Annan and accepted by Syria in late March, is crumbling as deadly violence persists.

The plan calls for the withdrawal of Syrian forces from population centers, the release of detainees and access for humanitarian aid to needed areas.

Annan also expressed on Saturday fears that the deteriorating situation in Syria started to spill over into neighboring countries, a reference to Lebanon.

At least four people were killed and five wounded Saturday in armed clashes between supporters and opponents of the Syrian government in northern Lebanon, according to police sources.

Machine guns were used in the clashes that broke out overnight in the Lebanese port city of Tripoli, the sources said.

The rival factions were reportedly from the mainly Sunni neighborhood of Bab al-Tabanneh, which supports the Syrian opposition, and Jabal Mohsen, inhabited by pro-Syrian Shiite Alawites to which President Bashar Assad belongs.

Such clashes have occasionally flared up between the two groups since the uprising in Syria began in March 2011.

Meanwhile, Syrian troops made mass arrests in several restive areas. Opposition rebels announced on Saturday that they would resume "defensive operations" against Assad's forces, after a deadline they set for his regime to abide by a UN-brokered ceasefire expired.

"The regime is not respecting (international envoy Kofi) Annan's peace plan. The regime is killing the people. We cannot stand by watching," Abu Alaa, a commander in the rebel Free Syrian Army, said.

Six soldiers were killed Saturday in clashes with rebels in the southern province of Daraa, reported opposition activists.

Eight other soldiers were killed at dawn in fighting with rebels near the Syrian capital Damascus, they added.

Eight people were killed by Syrian forces in the dissident province of Homs, reported the opposition Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

News from Syria is hard to independently verify, as the government has barred most foreign media from the restive areas since a pro-democracy uprising started in the country in March 2011.