The ‘Arab Spring’ sweeping across North Africa, the Gulf and Middle East has continued to claim countless lives, as the war rages on in Libya, and Syria teeters on the brink of civil war.
On 7 May, Associated Press revealed that the United Nations was preparing to send a team into Syria to investigate whether any UN action might be needed, as it has been in Libya.
The news came as more than 590 people were reported dead since the uprising began in March, and as government tanks started rolling into one of the hot spots for the uprising, the coastal city of Baniyas.
This city, where there are many Sunni districts, has had its communication lines cut by Syrian troops, making reports of an even higher toll of civilian deaths — 800, according to Syrian human rights group Sawasiah — difficult to verify.
According to the BBC, state officials have declared the death toll to be much lower, with more than half of the fatalities allegedly troops and police.
However, human rights groups and reporters still in the region (the majority of international agencies have been told to evacuate) said that unarmed protesters have been forming ‘human chains’ to try to stop the military operation.
One Al-Jazeera reporter, from Izza in Syria, witnessed first-hand a shooting of unarmed protesters who were taking a stand against the military crack-down. He wrote, ‘It was clear that security forces — or Assad loyalists, who are now, based on behaviour, part of the security forces — had just carried out a mini-massacre.
‘This was unlike anything I had ever seen. After covering seven separate wars in as many years, I’ve never seen people march directly into a hail of gunfire’.
The US state administration has already declared there would be a strong international response if President Bashar al-Assad does not take steps to end the killings. The EU is to impose asset freezes and travel restrictions on some Syrian officials.