More than 400 people have been killed in Syria in just the two weeks since Arab League observers were deployed in the country in late December as part of a peace plan to end months of bloodshed there, United Nations political chief B. Lynn Pascoe said.
The figure, which Western media reports said was compiled by the UN office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights on the basis of accounts by Syrian and international human rights groups, suggests violence in the Arab country has escalated significantly since the beginning of the monitoring mission on December 27.
Pascoe, the UN under secretary general for political affairs, was speaking during a closed-door meeting with representatives the UN Security Council on Tuesday, news reports said.
According to the United Nations, a total of 5,000 people have been killed in Syria since the beginning of the uprising, while the Syrian authorities put the death toll at 2,000 police and security officers, which they say have been killed by foreign-backed armed “terrorists.”
On Tuesday, embattled Syrian President Bashar al-Assad delivered a combative speech broadcast live on Syrian television, in which he refused to step down and threatened to use an “iron fist” against his opponents.
Assad once again said that he still retains the support of the Syrian people and would leave office “only by the will of the people” in his fourth public address since the beginning of protests against his rule ten months ago.
On Sunday, the Arab League called on the Syrian government and “all armed groups to immediately stop all acts of violence” during a ministerial meeting in Cairo. Despite allegations about acts of “harassment” faced by its monitors in Syria, the League gave a green light for the mission to continue.
Assad reluctantly agreed to host the Arab monitors as he faces growing international pressure over his crackdown on dissent.