Syrian forces killed two people as they pressed their crackdown on dissent Tuesday, on the eve of a visit by the Arab League chief to push for an end to the violence and urge reforms and elections.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said a 15-year-old boy and another civilian were killed by gunfire in the flashpoint central province of Homs, where another five bodies were found on Tuesday.
The latest bloodshed came as the embattled regime of President Bashar al-Assad prepared to host Wednesday Arab League secretary general Nabil al-Arabi who is carrying a 13-point initiative to held end the crisis.
It also comes a day after the International Committee of the Red Cross said Syria had agreed, for the first time since anti-regime protests erupted more than five months ago, to allow its delegates to visit a detention centre.
More than 2,200 people have been killed in Syria since the almost daily mass protests began, according to UN figures. Human rights groups say that more than 10,000 are behind bars.
Assad’s regime says it is fighting foreign-backed “armed terrorist gangs.”
The Arab League chief has been tasked by foreign ministers of the 22-member bloc with travelling to Damascus with a 13-point document outlining proposals to end the bloodshed and push Syria to launch reforms.
According to a copy of the document seen by AFP, Arabi will propose that Assad hold elections in three years, move towards a pluralistic government and halt immediately the crackdown on anti-regime protesters.
The initiative, agreed at an Arab foreign ministers’ meeting in Cairo last month, calls for a “clear declaration of principles by President Bashar al-Assad specifying commitment to reforms he made in past speeches.”
It says Assad should declare his “commitment to making the transition towards a pluralistic government and use his powers to speed up reforms and announce multi-candidate elections… for 2014, when his current mandate ends.”
The proposal also calls on the Syrian government “to immediately end” the crackdown on protesters in order “to spare Syria from sliding into sectarian strife or providing justification for foreign intervention.”
Arabi will also urge Assad to “separate the military from political and civil life” and to launch “serious political contacts” with members of the opposition.
After a special meeting on Syria that was held on August 27, Arab foreign ministers issued a statement urging an “end to the spilling of blood and (for Syria) to follow the way of reason before it is too late.”
They also called for respecting “the right of the Syrian people to live in security and of their legitimate aspirations for political and social reforms,” and tasked Arabi with travelling to Damascus.
The statement angered Syria which said it contained “unacceptable and biased language.”
Arabi told reporters in Cairo on Tuesday that he had been instructed by the Arab League “to carry a clear message to the Syrian authorities about the situation in Syria and the need to stop the violence and launch immediate reforms.”
Syrian official newspapers Tuesday downplayed the importance of the visit, with the ruling party’s mouthpiece, Al-Baath, criticising what is said was “the media buzz” that preceded the visit.
It said the media attention was “artificial” and aimed at pushing the Arab League into political manoeuvring turning the pan-Arab organisation into “the political arm of NATO military adventures instead of being the home of Arabs.”
On the ground activists reported that anti-regime demonstrations took place late Monday near Homs, hours after Syrian forces raided several parts of the rebellious province where 12 people were killed earlier in the day.
According to activists, 13 people were killed around Syria on Monday.