02/18/2013 - #Syria - Aleppo - Rebels monitor Al Neirab military airport in preparation for assault
The United Nations today expressed grave concern over the implications of the violence in Syria for the 500,000 Palestinian refugees across the country.
“The current situation in the Damascus neighbourhood of Yarmouk and in rural Damascus, home to both Syrian and Palestinian communities, is especially worrying,” said the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) in a statement.
UNRWA called on all parties to take steps to ensure the protection of Palestinian refugees and requested all parties to the conflict to “take measures, as required by international law, to preserve human life, to avoid forced displacement and to exercise the utmost restraint.”
The agency emphasized that all parties must respect the neutrality of UN installations and of areas where refugees and other civilians reside, stating it is also concerned about the safety of UNRWA’s staff, the s
ecurity of its facilities, and the access that refugees have to humanitarian assistance.
UNRWA appealed to the Syrian authorities to safeguard the security of Palestine refugees wherever they reside in the country and stressed that it will continue to monitor the situation as it evolves.
Edith M. Lederer
The Associated Press
Published Thursday, Apr. 19, 2012 1:08AM EDT
Last updated Thursday, Apr. 19, 2012 8:52AM EDT
International envoy Kofi Annan says Syria and the United Nations have reached an agreement on the rules governing the UN’s advance team of truce monitors.
Mr. Annan’s spokesman Ahmad Fawzi says the agreement covers how the team of up to 30 observers will “monitor and support a cessation of armed violence in all its forms by all parties” and implement Mr. Annan’s six-point peace plan.
Mr. Fawzi said in a statement the agreement negotiated Thursday outlines the observers’ functions and the “tasks and responsibilities” of the Syrian government.
He says Mr. Annan also is having “similar discussions” with opposition figures to reach agreement on “the tasks and responsibilities of armed opposition groups.”
A small UN advance team is in Syria trying to salvage a week-old ceasefire.
Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said late Wednesday he isn’t underestimating the gravity of the situation in Syria but believes there is an opportunity for progress and recommended the Security Council approve a 300-strong UN observer mission.
Mr. Ban said in a letter to the council obtained by The Associated Press that he will consider developments on the ground, including consolidation of the ceasefire, before deciding on when to deploy the expanded mission, which is larger than the 250 observers initially envisioned.
The UN chief said the level of violence dropped markedly on April 12, the day a ceasefire called for by international envoy Kofi Annan went into effect, but that violent incidents and reported casualties have escalated again in recent days and “the cessation of armed violence in all its forms is therefore clearly incomplete.”
At the same time, Mr. Ban said, the Syrian government and opposition have continued to express their commitment to a ceasefire and have agreed to co-operate with a UN observer mission.
“I remain deeply concerned about the gravity of the situation in the country,” he said. “However, without underestimating the serious challenges ahead, an opportunity for progress may now exist, on which we need to build.”
Mr. Ban said Syria has not fully implemented its initial requirement under Mr. Annan’s six-point plan to withdraw troops and heavy weapons from towns and cities and return them to barracks.
He said members of the small advance team on the ground in Syria enjoyed freedom of movement on a visit to the southern city of Daraa on Tuesday where they saw buses and trucks with soldiers dispersed throughout the city.
On Wednesday, he said, the advance team visited Jobar, Zamalka and Arbeen in suburban Damascus and reported the presence of military at checkpoints and around some public squares and buildings in all three locations. In Arbeen, he said, one armoured personnel carrier was hidden, covered by a plastic sheet.
“The situation in Arbeen became tense when a crowd that was part of an opposition demonstration forced United Nations vehicles to a checkpoint,” Mr. Ban said. “Subsequently, the crowd was dispersed by firing projectiles. Those responsible for the firing could not be ascertained by the United Nations military observers.”
The secretary-general said no injuries were observed by the advance team but one U.N. vehicle “was damaged slightly during the incident.”
Mr. Ban said the team’s initial request to visit Homs – the city at the centre of the 13-month conflict – “was not granted, with officials claiming security concerns.”
The UN chief said action on other parts of Mr. Annan’s six-point plan “remains partial, and, while difficult to assess, it does not amount yet to the clear signal expected from Syrian authorities.”
Regarding the right to protest freely, he said, reports from local opposition groups suggest there was “a more restrained response” to demonstrations on April 13 – the day after the ceasefire took effect – “but there were nevertheless attempts to intimidate protesters, including reports of incidents of rifle fire by government troops.”
On detainees, Mr. Ban said “the status and circumstances of thousands of detainees across the country remains unclear and there continue to be concerning reports of significant abuses.” He added that “there has been no significant release of detainees.”
While the Syrian government said entry visas were granted to 53 Arab and foreign journalists, Mr. Ban said the UN has no further information and he again demanded that all journalists “have full freedom of movement throughout the country.”
Mr. Annan’s plan calls for unrestricted humanitarian access but Mr. Ban said “no substantive progress has been achieved over the last weeks of negotiations” on access to the one million people in need of aid.
“Developments since April 12 underline the importance of sending a clear message to the authorities that a cessation of armed violence must be respected in full, and that action is needed on all aspects of the six-point plan,” Mr. Ban said.
French preisdent Nicolas Sarkozy also weighed in on the crisis in Syria.
Mr. Sarkozy called for humanitarian corridors in Syria to help those opposing Mr. al-Assad.
Mr. Sarkozy also told Europe 1 radio Friday that Mr. al-Assad is a liar who wants to destroy the beleaguered city of Homs just like Libya’s Col. Gadhafi wanted to raze Benghazi.
Mr. Sarkozy spoke hours ahead of a meeting in Paris of the Friends of Syria group of nations.
He said that “Bashar Assad lies shamelessly. He wants to wipe Homs off the map just like (former Libyan leader Moammar) Gadhafi wanted to raze Benghazi from the map” despite a ceasefire.
Mr. Sarkozy predicted that the stance of Russia and China, which have opposed UN sanctions against Mr. al-Assad, will evolve because they “don’t like to be isolated.”
BRUSSELS (AP) — Despite oft-repeated U.S. demands that Syrian President Bashar Assad step aside, the Obama administration’s policy now reflects a consensus that Assad has a firm hold on power and that nothing short of an outside military strike will dislodge him quickly.
With rebel forces poorly armed and disorganized, efforts to pay them by Arab Gulf states failing, and sectarian divisions looming in Syria, the U.S. and its allies seem prepared to leave Assad where he is. Even if he could be ousted, the near future in Syria would involve civil war among ethnic groups now under Assad’s boot, or a slow and bloody war with rebels or proxy fighters armed from the outside.
The U.S. has edged toward supplying the rebels with communications gear and other nonlethal aid but has ruled out either a military assault or a supply of heavy weaponry for rebel forces.
“We are at a crucial turning point,” U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said Wednesday.
Either a United Nations-brokered cease-fire takes hold “or we see Assad squandering his last chance before additional measures have to be considered,” Clinton said.
But even as she suggests further action, as she has many times before, Clinton is not expected to announce a shift in the U.S. stance during a diplomatic huddle on Syria in Paris on Thursday.
U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said late Wednesday he believes there is an opportunity for progress in Syria and recommended the Security Council approve a 300-strong U.N. observer mission.
In a letter obtained by The Associated Press, Ban told the council he will consider developments on the ground, including consolidation of the cease-fire, before deciding on when to deploy the expanded mission, which is larger than the 250 observers initially envisioned. The Security Council was scheduled to discuss Ban’s letter and recommendations at a closed meeting Thursday morning.
The United States backs the cease-fire between Assad’s forces and rebels, but the deal also represents recognition that Assad remains in control of the armed forces and holds the power to suspend attacks on civilians and rebels.
The week-old cease-fire was supposed to allow greater humanitarian and other relief to enter the country.
Syria has violated key provisions. Tanks, troops and widely feared plainclothes security agents continue to patrol the streets to deter anti-government protests, while the regime resumed its assault on rebellious Homs, Syria’s third-largest city, over the weekend after only a brief lull.
The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said clashes broke out Thursday in Deir el-Zour, near the border with Iraq, killing one civilian and wounding three others. Syrian troops also began shelling rebel-held neighborhoods in Homs early Thursday, according to the Observatory.
U.S. officials regularly say Assad is no longer a legitimate leader, but they hold no direct leverage to make him leave, or even make him listen to international condemnation.
“Assad must step down,” U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said this week. “I mean, we continue to take that position. At the same time, I think, we believe that we have to continue to work with the international community to keep putting pressure on Assad.”
Even relatively harsh new sanctions on Syria are a tacit admission that Assad isn’t going anywhere anytime soon. And the rebels are no closer to ridding the country of him despite 13 months of fighting and 9,000 mostly civilian deaths.
Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Moallem said Wednesday that his country was observing the cease-fire plan laid out by special envoy Kofi Annan.
In a meeting in Beijing with his Chinese counterpart, Yang Jiechi, Moallem said the Syrian government would “honor and implement” its commitment to withdraw the army from cities and would cooperate with United Nations observers arriving in the country.
The U.N. insists the fragile truce is holding even though regime forces have been hammering Homs with artillery for days.
The Obama administration recently signed off on $12 million in enhanced communications, medical and other assistance to the opposition, but it is unclear what goods are making their way into Syria and by what means.
International sanctions on Assad’s regime have depleted its foreign currency reserves by half — and Damascus is actively trying to evade them, French Foreign Minister Alain Juppe said Tuesday as he opened a Paris meeting of some 57 countries, including Arab League states, to reinforce sanctions and denounce Assad. Clinton will attend a smaller gathering of “core” nations addressing the Syrian problem, also in Paris, diplomats said.
At a larger gathering two weeks ago, Saudi Arabia and other wealthy Arab states pledged donations from a multimillion-dollar fund designed to prop up Syrian rebels and entice defections from Assad’s army. Washington seized on the plan as a path forward even though the U.S. disagrees with Arab states that want to give weapons to the badly outgunned rebels.
Syrian opposition members and international officials say no money has been sent yet, in part because the Arab governments stepped into a logistical thicket when they began trying to figure out how to route the money to the right people.
There’s no way to monitor where the money goes as the country veers toward civil war. Because the rebels hold no territory and struggle even to maintain communications inside and outside Syria, there is no clear way to deliver the money.
The U.S. and other nations have tried a variety of ways to get Assad to ease a crackdown on antigovernment demonstrators inspired by last year’s Arab revolutions. The U.S. has long since given up hope that Assad would negotiate with protesters and peacefully give up power. But from the start last year, the U.S. rejected any call for a direct military response like the one mounted a year ago in Libya.
The reasons are simple and, like the current U.S. stance, they reflect the reality of Assad’s entrenched family dynasty.
Syria’s military is vastly more powerful and better-equipped than Libya’s was and is arrayed throughout cities and towns. Any air assault by the U.S. or other outsiders would probably kill many civilians.
The assault would have to be broad and sustained to knock out Syria’s heavy artillery and other defenses. That indicates a longer and far more expensive operation than the one in Libya, which was undertaken with NATO help.
Despite widespread disgust and anger at Assad, there is no international mandate for forcibly removing him. Syria was never the outcast that Libya under Moammar Gadhafi became, and it maintained trading and diplomatic relationships around the globe.
European countries are unlikely to get militarily involved without the United States, and Turkey has backed off from talk of creating buffer zones along the Syrian border. Any foreign military action could provoke anger from Russia and China, and open hostility from Iran, whose personnel have actively supported Assad’s government.
Russia and China have twice shielded Syria from U.N. sanctions over the crackdown.
Associated Press writers Slobodan Lekic in Brussels, Jamey Keaten in Paris and Bradley Klapper in Washington contributed to this report.
Women from around the world, urge you, Asma Al-Assad, to take up your responsibility as wife of the Syrian leader.
The wives of two United Nations ambassadors have produced an Internet video appealing to Syria’s first lady, Asma Assad, to “stop your husband” Bashar in his bid to thwart a popular uprising that has left thousands dead.
The film, posted on YouTube, contrasts the lavish lifestyle of 36-year-old mother-of-three Asma with images of dead and injured Syrian children and asks viewers to sign a petition demanding the U.K.-born first lady speak out to “stop the bloodshed.”
“Some women care for style… and some care for their people,” it says, in a reference to her frequent shopping trips to Europe.
“Stand up for peace, Asma. Speak out now. For the sake of your people. Stop your husband,” asks the video. “Stop being a bystander. No one cares about your image. We care about your action.”
It includes a file clip of Asma, a former investment banker, telling an audience, “We should all be able to live in peace, stability and with our dignities.”
The video then asks: “What happened to you, Asma?”
The video was produced by Sheila Lyall Grant, the wife of Britain’s U.N. envoy and Huberta von Voss-Wittig, the wife of Germany’s U.N. ambassador. Britain and Germany are both members of the U.N. Security Council.
“We strongly believe in Asma’s responsibility as a woman, as a wife and as a mother. As the vocal female Arab leader that she used to be, as a champion of female equality, she can not hide behind her husband,” Lyall Grant and Wittig said in a statement, according to Reuters.
The European Union has banned Asma Assad from traveling to the EU or shopping from European companies.
The U.N. estimates Assad’s forces have killed more than 9,000 people in the uprising. Syrian authorities say foreign-backed militants have killed over 2,600 soldiers and police.
The 15-nation U.N. Security Council voted unanimously on Saturday to authorize an initial deployment of 30 unarmed observers to monitor a shaky truce that started on Thursday.
Reuters contributed to this report.
The Internet is the first medium in history that supports groups and conversations at the same time. While the telephone gave us a one-to-one platform and televisions, magazines, radios, and books gave us the one-to-many platform, the Internet gave us the many-to-many platform. As a tool of communication and sharing, the Internet has proven to be an extraordinarily powerful force that is very difficult to control.
Increasingly, nation-states and corporations have tried to rein it in, to harness its potential within security and legal frameworks that exist outside the Net. But this has proven unattainable even for the most powerful organizations on the planet, precisely because the Internet is more than just a technology: it is a culture.
The Internet is characterized by two key features. One is the ability to communicate freely, and the second is to link up with the rest of the world. As recently as 1996, the first reliable worldwide survey of Internet-use counted about sixteen million users. Today, there are over five hundred million. Now in terms of the total population of the planet, we still have less than seven percent of the world connected to the Internet. Even though Internet use is growing fast, two-thirds of the planet will still be outside cyberspace by the end of this decade. That said, the speed of diffusion has been extraordinary. The Internet can combine every single medium once transformed into digital form. The Internet, therefore, is the single most important medium that can have the biggest impact on global society once a bigger percentage of the world population has access to it.
People used social media extensively during the 2011 Arab uprisings, yet it was not a one-way advantage. Activists succeeded in fostering a global culture of online activism and made the world realize the power of the Internet. Bloggers and activists have become national heroes. They have been the main engine for organizing protests, lobbying on behalf of prisoners, and reporting news to the outside world in countries where journalists are banned. The revolts have relied on two main weapons: the relentless determination of protesters and social media outlets. If we examine trends in social media, we can see that Syria has had an unprecedented share since March 2011.
The Syrian state has had a virtual monopoly over the media since the Baathist military coup of 1963. But satellite television stations and the emergence of Al-Jazeera and successive pan-Arab news channels broke the regime’s monopoly. The Internet has also emerged as an unchallenged source of news. The uprising in Syria has been progressing hand-in-hand with social media. The Syrian regime has also used the Internet, coupled with live bullets on the streets, to crack down on activists. Syrians used several tools to access social media sites such as Facebook and Youtube, which were blocked inside the country. These tools, however, prevented the tracking down of activists, so the regime eventually responded by unblocking both sites Facebook and Youtube. Soon after doing so, official state agencies started launching Distributed Denial of Service (DDOS) attacks by forging a fake Facebook page to steal activists’ passwords. The security forces have also used torture against captured opponents to obtain the passwords to their Facebook and email accounts. The Assad regime thus supported a network of hackers to establish the Syrian Electronic Army (SEA), which has been launching attacks against Syrian opponents and other targets, including the Al-Jazeera TV website, among others.
A new global race has emerged to obtain electronic surveillance arms. Annual revenues spent on electronic arms in 2011 were between three billion and five billion dollars, and they are rising drastically. The Syrian government built a surveillance system last year to monitor e-mails and Internet use. The surveillance equipment for this system was made by Hewlett Packard Co. and NetApp Inc., both US-based companies. The equipment, worth more than 7.2 million dollars, was sold to Syria through an Italy-based company called Area SpA. Germany’s Utimaco Safeware AG (USA) and Paris-based Qosmos SA also supplied technology for the project. European Union sanctions against Syria did not bar such sales until they adopted further legislation in December 2011 banning export of surveillance technology to Assad’s regime. Furthermore, Iran helped the Syrian regime by training state-employed technicians on cyber surveillance. The system includes probes in the traffic of mobile phone companies and Internet service providers (ISPs), capturing both domestic and international traffic. It also allows agents to archive communications for future searches or mapping of peoples’ contacts.
Each major security branch in Syria operates a 24/7 information room where young information technology (IT) students serve. These students either volunteer to become security officers, or are allocated there to complete an eighteen-month obligatory army service. As the state security apparatus jails new opponents, confiscates their computers, and tortures them to give up information from their online accounts, the IT students’ task is to scan these accounts and recover deleted information from confiscated personal computers. The scan processes are usually random and lengthy. Many IT students take a few weeks to read the details of one email account, yet students who serve in IT rooms have disparate levels of experience.
The Syrian security communications branch, codenamed “Branch 225,” is the central decision maker in relation to communications security in Syria. Branch 225 not only has direct contact with mobile phone operating companies, ISPs, and other communications companies, but also with electricity and water companies. Branch 225 is also linked to the Telecommunications Establishment (STE), which is the main communications company in Syria and controls all ISPs and landlines in the country. STE has a Central Operations Room in the Muhajireen neighborhood of Damascus directly linked to Branch 225. Since the Syrian revolt started, Branch 225 blacked out areas that government forces invaded to cover up the operations against civilians and to cut off any contact with the outside world. This branch controls the air-conditioned room at a telecom exchange building in Muhajireen, where the Area SpA surveillance system was installed. Although the Syrian government denied any links to the Syrian Electronic Army (SEA), undercover interviews with members of the SEA revealed that the Syrian government has funded SEA members and hired hackers for different operations against opponents.
On AJA: Monitor reports and information in memory cards deleted at Airport! #Syria
Abdulkarim Al Rihaw, president of The Syrian Association for Human Rights:
“Upon leaving the airport, the AL monitors’ cameras, laptops and cell phones were confiscated by the Syrian regime and every piece of data, videos, pictures and personal information were deleted!! Also AL monitors were thoroughly searched, even their clothes, in order to make sure that they don’t have any memory cards with them.
The reporter asked Al Rihawi: Does that mean that AL monitors don’t have any information and proof to bring to the Arab League meeting? He replied: “They were able to send some videos and pictures but a lot of this data was completely wiped off by the Syrian regime before they left the Syrian airport. It seems that the regime is worried about this information if it is revealed to the world. “
BEIRUT — Growing indications that a deeply divided international community is either unable or unwilling to intervene to halt the violence in Syria are fueling an armed rebellion that risks plunging the country, and perhaps the region, into a wider war.
The slide toward all-out conflict seemed to accelerate Wednesday after the opposition claimed that Syrian government forces had been forced to accept a cease-fire negotiated with rebel soldiers in the town of Zabadani, near the Lebanese border.
Rebel soldiers who identified themselves as members of the Free Syrian Army and a Zabadani activist said loyalist soldiers retreated Wednesday afternoon, five days after launching an offensive to quell dissent in Zabadani. The mountain resort 20 miles north of Damascus is one of as many as three dozen places in Syria that the opposition says have slipped beyond government control in recent weeks.
Witnesses said the government troops appeared to be heading toward another of the restive towns outside the capital. Offensives by Damascus have ebbed and flowed throughout the 10-month-old uprising, and the rebels acknowledged that the security forces may merely be regrouping before returning with reinforcements. The account, widely reported by Arabic TV networks but not by government media, could not be independently confirmed.
Activists nonetheless hailed the event as a symbolic turning point, heralding the possibility that the simmering armed revolt may force President Bashar al-Assad’s government to compromise.
“To force the regime to negotiate with the people and withdraw their soldiers under pressure is a political victory,” Kamal Labwani, a dissident who was freed in November after serving nearly 10 years in prison, said by telephone from Jordan.
“This shows we can achieve freedom by ourselves and not with the help of forces coming from outside. It means that if we take up weapons, we can defend ourselves and bring our own freedom,” he said.
Evidence has mounted for months that the once-peaceful Syrian opposition has been resorting to arms, but the fading hope of outside help is hardening the conviction that only violence will dislodge Assad, activists say.
“Until now there is not civil war, but if the international community continues like this, just watching and doing nothing, there will be,” said Omar Shakir, an activist in the Bab Amr neighborhood of Homs, which has emerged as the epicenter of the armed rebellion.
An Arab League monitoring mission has been unable to stop the killing, the Syrian opposition’s mostly exiled political leadership has proved too divided to present a coherent alternative to the Assad government, and the daily death toll tallied by both sides shows the steadily escalating bloodshed.
On Wednesday, the official SANA news agency reported the funerals of 14 members of the security forces who were killed by what it called “terrorists.” Activist groups said the security forces killed at least 21 people.
“This is not going to stop. It’s becoming an armed rebellion, it’s going to be chaos, and I don’t know why the world doesn’t understand that,” said Rami Jarrah, a Syrian activist living in Cairo who was forced to flee Damascus in October after the security forces learned his identity.
Jarrah and other observers say they fear the inaction will not only encourage opponents of the government to fight but also encourage a drift toward extreme ideologies.
“People are getting more angry now as they realize there won’t be any help,” he said. “It’s building up hatred to the West, and it’s becoming extremism. It’s very dangerous now.”
Protesters have clamored for a NATO no-fly zone similar to the one that helped bring about the fall of Moammar Gaddafi’s regime in Libya, but as they come to realize that Western intervention in Syria is unlikely, Islamist groups are winning support, said Wissam Tarif, a human rights campaigner with the activist group Avaaz.
“The only people who are organized and credible are the Muslim Brotherhood and the Salafis,” he said. “The dangerous thing is almost no one believes in peaceful struggle anymore. They want weapons.”
Activists in Syria say they have no agenda or ideology other than Assad’s ouster, but they acknowledge that Sunni Islamists have been gaining ground in the battle to dislodge a regime dominated by Assad’s minority Alawite sect, an offshoot of Shiite Islam, raising the prospect of heightened sectarianism.
“Until a month ago, no one supported the Brotherhood, but today we would support Israel if they helped us take Bashar out,” said Shakir, the activist in Homs. “Today we support anyone without questions if they help us.”
Yet the international community is as divided as the Syrian opposition over how to address the dangerously intractable revolt.
Russia made it clear Wednesday that it would veto any U.N. Security Council resolution that might open the door to international intervention, dampening U.S. and European hopes of revisiting efforts to condemn Syria at the world body after Russian and Chinese vetoes of a resolution in October.
“If some intend to use force at all cost . . . we can hardly prevent that from happening,” Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov told reporters in Moscow. “But let them do it at their own initiative on their own conscience. They won’t get any authorization from the U.N. Security Council.”
The stakes for Russia are high. Syria is a longtime ally dating to the Cold War era, and Russia relies on its basing rights at the Syrian port of Tartous for access to the Mediterranean. Lavrov declined to confirm or deny widespread reports that a Russian ship delivered 60 tons of weaponry to the Syrian government during a stop at the port last week.
“We are only trading with Syria in items which aren’t banned by international law,” he said.
The Russian comments shifted the focus of diplomacy back to the Arab League monitoring mission, which is due to announce its conclusions Thursday. Arab League ministers are set to meet in Cairo over the weekend to decide whether to renew the mission or seek U.N. support for broader action.
But the Arab world also is split over how to deal with the unfolding violence in a country whose complex ethnic and sectarian makeup mirrors many of the region’s most explosive fault lines. Iraq and Lebanon, with Shiite majorities, have sided with the Syrian government, as has Shiite Iran. The Sunni-led states of the Arabian Gulf, spearheaded by Qatar, are pressing for tougher action to replace the government, and the emir of Qatar told CBS that he would support the dispatch of Arab troops to Syria to end the violence.
Tellingly, however, the comment was made in an interview two months ago but was not discussed until the network aired it on the weekend. It appears to have garnered little support.
AP #Syria - The Arab League on Sunday rejected amendments proposed by Damascus to its proposal to send a 500-strong delegation to monitor the violence in Syria, saying they would radically alter the mission.
“It was agreed that the amendments and appendices proposed by the Syrian side affect the core of the document and would radically change the nature of the mission which is to oversee the implementation of the Arab plan to end the crisis in Syria and protect Syrian civilians,” the Arab League said in a statement.