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Deaths rise in Syria as U.N. Security Council holds talks

From Arwa Damon, CNN
January 28, 2012 -- Updated 0209 GMT (1009 HKT)
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • NEW: Syrian Embassy in Cairo ransacked
  • U.N. Security Council discusses a draft resolution calling on al-Assad to step down
  • Syrian media reports assaults by "terrorists"
  • Opposition group says scores were killed Friday

Damascus, Syria (CNN) -- Deaths mounted in Syria on Friday as world powers in the U.N.Security Council weighed a draft resolution calling on the country's president to step down.

Soldiers and security forces killed 60 people on Friday, said the Local Coordination Committees of Syria, an opposition activist group.

The group said the dead included three children, three women and three soldiers who had defected. Nineteen of the deaths occurred in Homs, it said. CNN cannot independently confirm events in Syria because it is limited from reporting on the ground.

In the Daraa province village of Nawa, 11 civilians died at the hands of pro-regime militias, the LCC said. The assault occurred during a funeral procession for a high school student whom security forces had killed Thursday.

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"The regime's forces encircled the procession and responded with intense gunfire, which led to additional martyrs. ... (President Bashar al-Assad's) security forces and thugs raided the private hospital in the town and attempted to kidnap the wounded," the group said. It said activist Bashar Abu al-Sal, popular for leading chants in demonstrations, was among the dead. Dozens more were wounded, it said.

In Idlib, a car bomb exploded at a security checkpoint at the entrance of the city, causing casualties to members of the Syrian security forces, the activist group said.

The state-run Syrian Arab News Agency on Friday said terrorists killed law enforcement and civilians, including a 10-year-old boy in a Damascus neighborhood, and gunned down a security officer in Homs. It said that terrorist bombs caused casualties in Deir Ezzor and Idlib and that the house of a Lebanese journalist was torched in Jabal al-Zawia. The government has consistently blamed the unrest in Syria on terrorist groups.

Friday is when anti-regime protesters have staged countrywide mass demonstrations since the unrest began more than 10 months ago.

Activists pick a different theme for each Friday's protests. The current theme is "the right to self-defense."

Opposition to al-Assad's regime has led to the rise of the Free Syrian Army, a resistance force composed of military defectors who control neighborhoods in the suburbs of the capital.

A CNN crew drove from central Damascus to the town of Saqba and passed through a Free Syrian Army checkpoint Friday. Those forces carried AK-47 assault rifles and one had a rocket-propelled grenade launcher. From sandbagged positions, they have pushed back Syrian soldiers who tried to enter.

The FSA was in "full control" of the Damascus suburb of Douma, according to Lt. Col. Mohamed Hamado of the resistance force.

The unrest has spread beyond Syria's borders. In Cairo, about 100 opponents of al-Assad broke into the Syrian Embassy and ransacked it for about 20 minutes, causing minor damage, a witness said.

Egyptian security forces charged with protecting the embassy were present but ineffective, a Syrian official said.

"No one has ever been arrested and no measures have been taken to protect the embassy," Syrian Ambassador Youssuf Ahmed told reporters. "Therefore, I hold the Egyptian government fully responsible for what happened."

Egyptian officials played down the incident, saying it wasn't a large breach. But Syrian officials said they wanted the intruders to be charged.

In New York, meanwhile, the U.N. Security Council discussed Friday a resolution introduced by Morocco that calls on al-Assad to step down and transfer power to his vice president.

The resolution also supports "full implementation" of the Arab League report that called on Syria to form a unity government within two months but stopped short of supporting military intervention. The Arab League report was released about a month after it sent observers into Syria.

Arab League Secretary-General Nabil el-Araby and Qatar's Prime Minister Sheikh Hamad bin Jassim al-Thani, are expected to brief the council Tuesday about the observer mission's findings. When asked whether that briefing would lead to a vote next week, France's U.N. envoy, Gerard Araud, responded with just one word: "Inshallah," or "God willing" in Arabic.

The next step is a Monday meeting of experts from the missions of the 15 countries on the Security Council.

But Syrian ambassador to the United Nations Bashar Ja'afari was dismissive of the draft. "Syria will not be Libya; Syria will not be Iraq; Syria will not be Somalia; Syria will not be a failing state," he told reporters.

The 22-member Arab League has called on al-Assad's regime to stop violence against civilians, free political detainees, remove tanks and weapons from cities and allow outsiders -- including the international news media -- to travel freely in Syria. On Wednesday, Syria's government agreed to a one-month extension of the League's observer mission, which monitors government activities in various hotspots.

The United Nations last month estimated that more than 5,000 people have died since March. The Local Coordination Committees said Tuesday that more than 6,600 deaths have been documented since the unrest began. Avaaz, a global political activist group, said the death toll has exceeded 7,000.

CNN's Salma Abdelaziz, Mohamed Fadel Fahmy and Joe Sterling and Journalist Ian Lee in Cairo contributed to this report.

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