1 Jan 2012

Activists say 35 killed in day of massive protests

12:19 am on 1 January 2012

Arab League observers are continuing their mission to Syria after witnessing a day of massive protests across the country.

The BBC says the protestors numbered in the hundreds of thousands and appear to have met stiff resistance.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights in London said as many as 250,000 people took to the streets in the north-western province of Idlib.

Activists say 35 people have been killed in flashpoint cities like Hama, Deraa and Homs, all of them being visited by the League monitors.

Troops were accused of firing live rounds, nail bombs and teargas in what what the BBC describes as running battles at one of the largest rallies, in the Damascus suburb of Douma.

More than 20 people were wounded by nail bombs, activists alleged, as they approached a building where the monitors were believed to be.

Casualty figures and other information are hard to verify as most foreign media are barred from Syria.

The Syrian government says, however, it is facing a terrorist insurgency and its army has also suffered losses in the clashes.

The League monitors have been coming in for criticism for not stopping the violence against civilians.

One activist says the Arab League had sent the mission to ensure the safety of civilians, but this was not happening.

I think the whole role is being misunderstood, she says.

The Arab League monitors are due to submit a report on the League's peace deal with Syria at the end of January but have suggested they might issue an interim report much sooner.

The peace plan includes removing military hardware from civilian areas and releasing detainees from prisons.