The United Nations and the Arab League [official website] on Sunday each expressed concern over the recent increased violence in Syria [JURIST news archive]. UN Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator Valerie Amos [official profile] expressed particular concern over the impact of shelling and use of tanks and other heavy weapons at Aleppo [UN News Centre report], Syria's most populous city, where opposition fighters in control of sections of the city have clashed for several days with troops of President Bashar al-Assad [BBC profile; JURIST news archive] after additional tank columns and troop reinforcements were sent in last week. Amos urged all parties to avoid civilian casualties and allow humanitarian access to areas impacted by the violence, on the same day that Arab League Secretary-General Dr. Nabil Elaraby [Arab League backgrounder] reportedly described the ongoing conflict [Reuters report] between troops and rebels in Syria as amounting to war crimes. Dr. Elaraby warned that the perpetrators of such crimes would be held internationally accountable, even as main opposition group Syrian National Council [advocacy website] asks the international community for arms [AP report] to combat al-Assad's weapons.
The Arab League has maintained a watchful eye over the fighting in Syria, and has offered both a Protocol Observer Mission [text, in Arabic, PDF] and an Arab Plan of Action [text, in Arabic, PDF] to ameliorate the situation. Earlier this week Amnesty International (AI) [advocacy website] accused both government forces and rebels of summarily capturing and killing [JURIST report] opposition forces, in violation of international humanitarian law. In February the UN General Assembly [official website] adopted [JURIST report] the League's plan to bring the situation to a close as soon as possible by encouraging al-Assad to step down. Though the plan has yet to come to fruition, the League found success in January when it reached an agreement with Syrian authorities to release 552 prisoners [JURIST report] detained due to allegations that they were involved in "terrorist" activities. The death toll of civilians in Syria, however, continues to rise despite the November signing of a peace plan [JURIST report] sponsored by the League.