Amr Moussa, general secretary of the Arab League.

Army forces move in on second northern protest town

Syrian forces moved towards Marat Al-Numaan on the Damascsus-Aleppo highway late on Monday, following their Sunday push into Jisr Al-Shaghour.

On Monday night, Reuters reported troops had reached the village of Ahtam.

Thousands of residents of Jisr Al-Shaghour fled the town before the army took control in an offensive against what the government said were “armed gangs” who had been terrorising the population.

On Syrian state television and on a number of foreign networks who were granted supervised access to the town, images were shown of what authorities said was makeshift explosive devices and a ‘mass grave’ they said contained the bodies of a number of slaughtered police and soldiers.

The authorities said last week 120 security forces were killed there by armed gangs prompting the heavy military response. But residents speaking to international media who fled to Turkey and allegedly one soldier who defected and made his way to the temporary refugee camps near the border, said there had been many defections and fighting between troops loyal to the government and the defectors had led to the deaths. The Syrian authorities strongly denied these claims as unsubstantiated rumours.

Nearly 7,000 Syrians have fled to the four temporary refugee camps in Turkey and many more are thought to be hiding out near the border.

Syrian rights groups upped the death toll from the uprising to 1,300 this week. While the government has not released a figure of civilian casualties, it says between 300 and 500 soldiers, police and security forces have been killed.

Arab league angers Damascus

The Arab league has angered the Syrian government by making public statements calling for a common position on Syria.

Amr Moussa, the league’s Egyptian secretary general, said: “Though their views differ, Arab states are all worried, angry and actively monitoring the current crisis in Syria. What we are hearing and monitoring, about many victims falling, indicates great tumult in Syria ... The situation in Syria should not be left in this state. Continuation of the status quo could lead to what may not be desired ... for Syria.”

In response Syria’s representative to the League, Youssef Ahmad, said the statements were politically motivated and “unbalanced”.

Days before leaving his post Moussa calls for a kind of foreign intervention in the Syrian affairs,” Ahmadm told SANA, “when the Libyan blood, shed by NATO air strikes as a result for a Security Council resolution, based, regrettably on an Arab demand in which Moussa’s efforts immensely contributed, isn’t dry yet.”

Syria Today (Syria)