Syrian troops stormed a central town and a northwestern region in search of regime opponents on Saturday, activists said; a day after the government agreed in principle to allow the Arab League to send observers to oversee a peace plan proposed by the 22-member bloc.
Human rights activist reported that nine people have been killed by sniper fire.
The attacks on the town of Shezar, in the central province of Hama and on the restive Jabal al-Zawiya region near the Turkish border, came as pressure mounted on Damascus to end its eight-month crackdown on anti-government protesters.
The unrest has killed more than 3,500 people since mid-March, according to UN estimates.
Syria agreed in principle Friday to allow dozens of Arab observers into the country to oversee an Arab League peace plan that calls on the government to stop attacking demonstrators pull tanks out of cities and begin negotiations with the opposition.
Anti-Assad protest (Photo: Reuters)
It was a significant concession from a hard-line regime that loathes any sort of outside interference. But critics say the government is only stalling, trying to defuse international pressure while continuing its bloody crackdown.
The Arab League has already suspended Syria's membership in the bloc for failing to abide by the peace plan. On Wednesday, the league gave Damascus three days to accept the observer mission or face economic sanctions.
Violence has escalated in Syria over the past week, as army dissidents who sided with the protests have grown bolder, fighting back against regime forces and even assaulting military bases. Activist groups said security forces on Friday killed at least 16 anti-government protesters.
Pressure from European capitals and the US is also building on President Bashar Assad to end the bloodshed.
An official at Britain's Foreign Office said Foreign Secretary William Hague intends to meet opposition representatives in London on Monday.
French Foreign Minister Alain Juppe called on the UN Security Council to strengthen sanctions against Assad's regime. However, Russia, which holds veto power in the council, urged caution in moving against Damascus.
In Washington, State Department spokesman Mark Toner said the US has seen no signs that Syria's government will honor the Arab League proposal.
On Saturday, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, accused Syria of not fulfilling promises for reform or to stop the bloodshed: "In the past nine years, it was Syria and the Syrian people – rather than Turkey – that had benefited from the Turkish-Syrian friendship," Erdogan said.
"... Syria has not kept its promises to Turkey, to the Arab League or to the world. It made promises but did not fulfill them. It has not acted in a sincere trustworthy manner," he said.
The Arab League observer mission aims to prevent violence and monitor a cease-fire that Damascus agreed to last week but has been unwilling, or unable, to implement.
Roee Nahmias contributed to this report
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