‘Syrians being killed by gangs and defectors’

As Syrian forces reportedly continue to kill civilian protesters, armed rebels have threatened to step up their own attacks. Middle East expert Dr. Jeremy Salt says there is tunnel vision when it comes to deciding just who is doing the killing.

­The commander of Syria's armed rebels threatened to step up attacks on President Bashar al-Assad's forces on Wednesday, according to Reuters. He said he was frustrated with Arab League monitors' lack of progress in ending a government crackdown on protests.

On Tuesday, the Arab League called for an emergency meeting to discuss whether to withdraw the group's monitors from Syria, amid concerns that the observers’ presence is doing little to deter government forces from continuing to kill protesters, AP reports, citing an Arab official.

Middle Eastern politics expert Dr. Jeremy Salt says figures about numbers of deaths, even from official sources, differ too much to be reliable.

“In its report, the Human Rights Council said 4,000 [people have been killed in Syria to date]…but there was no information about where they got that figure from,” he said. “A few days later, Navi Pillay, who is the UN Human Rights Commissioner, stood up in the Security Council and said 5,000 – and the figure echoes around the world,” he told RT.

“I think it lodges in the popular imagination as 5,000 people being killed by the Syrian government – by the security forces, by the military – whatever. Whereas in fact, I don’t think there’s any doubt at all that a large number of military, of civilians have been killed by armed gangs and by defectors,” Salt explained.

The Middle East politics expert believes the figures need to be disaggregated.