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More than 20 killed in Syria; UN renews call for peace initiative

More than 20 civilians, including eight children, were killed in Syria's northern province of al-Raqqa, according to a video [Youtube video] posted Wednesday by activists. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights [official website, Arabic] also reported [Al Jazeera report] that many other civilians were injured in the government's attack. The video posted online displayed several dead bodies on blankets outside of houses, including one child. There has been an escalation of violence in Raqqa as the opposition seeks to oust the current regime from the province bordering Turkey. The UN and Russia have renewed calls for a peace initiative [AP report] that was originally proposed [JURIST report] in June at an international conference in Geneva. The plan called for a cease-fire, a transition government to take power until the country's elections, and a new constitution. The plan was initially rejected by both political parties in Syria. The opposition was opposed to this plan because the plan did not explicitly ban President Bashar Assad [JURIST news archives] from participating in the transition government. The regime in power rejected the plan because it would involve them giving up power.

The Syrian government has been in conflict with the opposition since 2011, and the international community has become increasingly concerned about the violence. Last week the UN Independent International Commission of Inquiry (COI) [official website] in Syria released its latest periodic update [JURIST report], finding persistent violence and human rights abuses. The update covered the period of September 28, when the UN Human Rights Council passed a resolution extending [JURIST report] the COI's mission, until December 16. Earlier this month US President Barack Obama [JURIST news archives] recognized the leading Syrian opposition coalition as the legitimate representative of the country's people. A UN official said last month that a video posted on the Internet of Syrian rebels executing government soldiers who had surrendered may be evidence of war crimes [JURIST report]. In October, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay [official website] called on the international community to work to bring an end to the Syrian conflict [JURIST report].

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