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20 Dec, 2011 06:49

Syrian opposition calls for foreign intervention

Syria's opposition wants an Arab military intervention to “protect civilians from government security forces” – even after Damascus signed an Arab League protocol allowing observers to monitor a regional peace initiative to end months of bloodshed.

The opposition dismissed the deal as a stalling tactic.Syria has been increasingly isolated under sanctions from Arab states, the US and the EU over its crackdown on anti-government protesters.But official Damascus says it is fighting extremist armed groups operating in the country.In the embattled city of Homs, heavy gunfire forms a permanent soundtrack to everyday life. One cannot begin to fathom how, week after week and month after month, people in this city have endured the ongoing conflict. But the continuing violence is taking its toll“There are neighborhoods that are being suffocated, surrounded by armed groups,” one local woman explains. “There are many people who’ve been kidnapped. We’ve had enough. What did we do to deserve this?” she asks.Homs has been described as a city on the brink of civil war and where some of Syria’s fiercest fighting has broken out.Driving through the city streets, there are clear signs of conflict: bullet holes in window panes, anti-regime slogans on walls, and a heavy military presence.RT’s crew were unable to visit neighborhoods where continuous intense fighting has rendered access too dangerous. But in other areas, daily life struggles on, albeit against a backdrop of gunfire. In central Homs, children still play unhindered and seemingly oblivious to the dangers, and this has been one of the major concerns for civilians living in the city.The violence here is far more complex than a simple fight between opposition and regime. Here, deep-seated sectarian conflicts have reared their heads.“From the very beginning in Homs it was sectarian, because there are equally large numbers of both sects, much more than in other cities,” a local man told RT.A military funeral was held yesterday for five soldiers killed by what the government says is an increasingly armed militant movement.On the same day, from the opposition, further harrowing accounts have emerged of civilian deaths around the country. It makes Syria’s decision to allow the Arab League to send observers all the more important.Syria’s Foreign Ministry spokesman Jihad Maqdessy said, “This is a question for them, not for Syria.”The decision has been branded “a ploy” by the SNC, the opposition outside Syria.  Meanwhile, however, the opposition inside the country has welcomed the move. “We hope it’s going to be implemented on the ground as it is stated in the protocol,” a member of National Coalition Council Mahmoud Murai said. “And we remain completely against international intervention: it would lead the country to destruction.”With a fractious opposition, rising death toll and with facts and information still hard to verify, the observers’ arrival in Syria will be an important step. But it is just one of many more that will need to be taken – and soon – to ensure that no more lives are lost.