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News of Escalated Violence in Syria Troubles Arab League Monitors

January 27, 2012 at 12:00 AM EST
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JEFFREY BROWN: The violence continued in Syria today with fighting in Homs, Hama, and Idlib. Activists reported at least 74 people were killed in the last two days.

Also today, Syrian insurgents said they’re holding seven Iranians hostage, and wouldn’t release them until the government frees a rebel army officer and stops military operations in Homs.

We have this report from Lindsey Hilsum of Independent Television News.

LINDSEY HILSUM: The protesters brandished their weapons in Idlib today. Their slogan: “We have the right to defend ourselves.”

So much for the idea of a peaceful uprising. Many are now preparing for a protracted armed struggle against the forces of the Syrian president, Bashar al-Assad.

MAN (through translator): No matter what you do, however much you terrorize us and however many of our children you kill, we will prevail. God is with us.

LINDSEY HILSUM: The defecting soldiers who call themselves the Free Syrian Army drove onto the streets of Homs today as the crowds massed. They were mourning some 30 people killed in fighting with government forces before dawn, and a similar number who died yesterday, amongst them eight children killed with knives.

The pictures are too gruesome to show. Opposition activists say they were victims of government thugs. Several neighborhoods in Homs now show the marks of war. An activist shot this video of a building which collapsed on Tuesday after being shelled, killing 18 people inside.

“That’s my brother’s toy bear,” she says. “And this doll used to sing. Look, it’s ruined.”

The town of Hama echoed to the sound of shelling and rocket fire this morning. A defector who oversaw the defense budget until a month ago told Channel 4 News today that Iran is helping the Syrian government with weapons and snipers.

MAHMOUD HAJ HAMAD, former Syrian defense ministry auditor (through translator): There are planes loaded with cash coming from Iran. I would estimate about $6 billion has arrived so far. There were Iranian snipers. I saw them going into the security compounds. I heard them speaking Farsi. What business do they have there?

LINDSEY HILSUM: The head of the Arab League observer mission said today there’s been a significant increase in violence over the past three days. There were even deaths and injuries in normally quiet Aleppo today, but there’s no solution in sight, and the Russians have said they will veto the proposed resolution at the U.N. Security Council tonight.

RAY SUAREZ: Margaret Warner takes it from there.