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As Arab League Delegation Meets With Assad, Crackdowns Continue In Syria

<p>Tens of thousands of people rally in support of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in Damascus on Wednesday.</p>
Louai Beshara
AFP/Getty Images

Tens of thousands of people rally in support of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in Damascus on Wednesday.

A delegation from the Arab League met with President Bashar Assad, today. The visit is supposed to facilitate the ceasefire demanded by the Arab nations in a resolution last week.

The Financial Times reports:

The Arab officials' visit follows a meeting in Cairo last week by the 22-nation Arab League, which gave Syria until the end of the month to stop military operations, release detainees arrested in the crackdown, and start a dialogue with the opposition.

The 22-nation Arab League disappointed many in the Syrian opposition by failing to agree on suspending Syria's membership in response to a crackdown which the UN says has claimed more than 3,000 lives when it met in Cairo on October 16, though it did call for the regime to start reforms to enable a dialogue between the regime and the opposition to begin within 15 days.

What came of the meeting is still unclear, but on the streets it seems both sides have dug in: The AP reports the Assad regime mobilized thousands of supporters for a pro-Assad rally and the opposition, which has said they will not accept anything short of a power transfer, called for a general strike.

The AP adds:

Amateur videos showed shops closed in different parts of the country as well as counter-demonstrations to the one held in Damascus. One of the largest took place in the village of Halfaya in the central province of Hama.

A giant banner raised on an electricity pole there read: "To the Arab League. How do you want us to have a dialogue with the killer of children and women when all laws say that the killer should not be negotiated with, but put on trial?"

In its report, Al Jazeera said that as all this was happening, the government continued its crackdown on dissent. Al Jazeera correspondent Rula Amin said Homs, which has been the center of the uprising, was shelled hard and a 1-year-old child was killed along with her father.

Amin added that for the first time, the opposition acknowledged that the Syrian army had been attacked. She said in two different incidents about 18 soldiers were killed.

This is important, because the opposition in Syria has been peaceful and this could mark a turning point.

"The situation on the ground is deteriorating very fast," said Amin. "Maybe the Arab League will not have much of a chance to bring the two sides together."

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Eyder Peralta is NPR's East Africa correspondent based in Nairobi, Kenya.