Syria Anti-government protesters - Reuters - 22122011
Anti-government protesters attend the funeral of protesters killed in earlier clashes in the Damascus suburb of Zabadani on Wednesday. Photo by Reuters
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An advance team for an Arab League monitoring mission arrived in Syria on Thursday in an attempt to end a political crisis that has torn the country apart since March. The team will prepare the ground for an additional 150 observers.

The Arab League monitors will have the job of checking if Syria is complying with an Arab initiative that calls for an end to violence, the withdrawal of troops from the street and the release of prisoners.

Earlier Thursday, a human rights group said that more than 6,200 people including hundreds of children have died in Syria's crackdown on an anti-government revolt.

Syria is facing increasingly fierce international condemnation for its handling of months of demonstrations against President Bashar Assad’s rule, partly inspired by the “Arab Spring" uprisings that have swept across North Africa and the Middle East.

Syria says it is fighting foreign-backed "terrorists" and on Thursday announced that more than 2,000 of its security forces have been killed in the unrest.

The British-based Avaaz rights group said it had collected evidence of more than 6,237 deaths of civilians and security forces, 617 of them under torture. At least 400 of the dead were children, it added.

The figures were about 1,000 higher that the latest UN estimates, which have also been climbing sharply in recent months.

“No once can now turn a blind eye to the horror-show in Syria ... One in every 300 Syrians has either been killed or imprisoned," said Avaaz executive director Ricken Patel in a statement.

"The world faces a choice: It stands by while brutal civil war rips through the country or it steps up the pressure to force Assad out," he added.
Security forces have detained at least 69,000 people since the uprising began in March, Avaaz said. Around 32,000 of them have since been released.

The death toll is rising sharply as the mainly peaceful protest movement against the Assad family's 41-year rule becomes overshadowed by clashes with armed rebel groups, who call themselves the Free Syrian Army.

Avaaz estimated that 917 in its count died in those clashes, with the casualties roughly divided between the armed rebels and Syrian security personnel.

This has been one of the bloodiest weeks of the nine-month uprising. On Tuesday, the army's efforts to quash revolt near the Turkish border killed more than 111 civilians and activists, another activist group said.

Avaaz said it had more than 50 monitors on the ground collecting data for its reports. Each person on its death toll was confirmed by three individuals, it said, including a relative of the deceased and a cleric who handled the body.

The group estimates that 40 percent of the fatalities were in the central city of Homs, a protest hotspot and centre of armed rebellion against security forces.

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