By Tyler Yates
Impunity Watch Reporter, Middle East
DAMASCUS, Syria — Renewed clashes in Syria have resulted in the deaths of at least 23 people as opposition activists initiate a general strike.
The general strike called by the opposition activists was being observed in southern Syria on Sunday with school children and civil servants staying at home. Fear of pro-government militias did keep some shopkeepers from joining the strike.
Many shopkeepers who didn’t open on Sunday had their property burned by troops.
There were reports of heavy machine-gun fire and pre-dawn clashes between activists and loyalist forces.
The Syrian National Council, an opposition umbrella group, has been warning of a potential bloodbath for days in the city of Homs, where tanks and checkpoints have been massing for days. The government has denied that a conflict is imminent.
The Syrian government has long blamed the bloodshed on Islamic militants and armed gangs, which it says are supported by outside states.
The Syrian state news agency SANA said that the deaths on Sunday occurred as authorities confronted members of “an armed terrorist group.”
Syria allows only severely restricted access to foreign media so it is hard to verify the content of its reports.
The United Nations estimates that over 4,000 individuals have died thus far in the over nine-month conflict.
Syrian President Bashar al-Assad is currently under international pressure to end his continued crackdown on the anti-government protesters.
It is reported that the Arab League will hold two emergency meetings in the coming day to discuss Damascus’s response to a League plan to send monitors into Syria.
Last month the League suspended Syria’s membership to protest the continued government crackdown on the protests.
The country’s economy is already beginning to hurt from economic sanctions imposed by the European Union, Arab League, United States, and Turkey, however it is still getting support from Iran, Russia, and China.
In neighboring Jordan there have been some violent protests at the Syrian embassy, in the capital city of Amman. The embassy said that protesters stormed the building and attacked staff, however sources close to the protesters argue that they were assaulted when they went into the embassy wearing opposition flags.
For more info, please see:
Al Jazeera — Syrian army and defectors ‘battling in south’ — 11 Dec. 2011
BBC — ’18 killed’ in fresh Syria clashes, say opposition — 11 Dec. 2011
Los Angeles Times — General strike launched in Syria amid fierce clashes — 11 Dec. 2011
Day Press — Opponents, Supporters of Syrian Gov’t — 10 Dec. 2011