The Assad regime’s brutal crackdown on a year-long ‘Arab Spring’ uprising has steadily pushed on despite increasingly intense international pressure and growing clamour for foreign intervention amidst the deaths of more than 8,500 people, mostly civilians, in its wake.
The UN-Arab League has appointed former UN chief Kofi Annan as envoy to Damascus in an attempt to start discussions anew between Assad and the opposition Syrian National Council which is headed by Burhan Ghalioun.
Annan met with Assad in Damascus over the weekend, and reported he had made "concrete" proposals for the Syrian leader to consider on ways to halt the attacks and secure humanitarian access to cities where the United Nations says thousands have been killed in the past year.
He also met with six representatives of the Syrian National Council, saying they had a “useful meeting,” and that they had “promised their full cooperation.”
Annan expressed optimism the crisis could be resolved peacefully but also warned the situation in Syria was at a “dangerous” level. He is expected to make an official statement on Wednesday in Geneva.
Reports based on accounts from witnesses state that government forces have also planted landmines near its borders with Lebanon and Turkey along routes used by refugees fleeing from the ongoing violence in the country and trying to reach safety in the neighbouring countries – a journey that has become even more perilous because of mines along stretches of the border.
Late last year, A Syrian official and witnesses reportedly admitted that Syria planted anti-personnel land mines along parts of its border with Lebanon, however, the official claimed at the time that the mines were placed in strategic locations to prevent arms smuggling.
Human rights groups report that the mines have already caused civilian casualties, mostly refugees who were hoping for some semblance of stability across the border. The reports can not be verified due to government curbs on foreign media.
Syrian Red Crescent data estimates that around 200,000 Syrians have been displaced inside the country while the United Nations refugee agency UNHCR states that another 30,000 are now living in refugee camps near Syria’s borders.
The United Nations has declared that it would soon deploy human rights monitors in countries bordering Syria to collect eyewitness testimony on "atrocities" committed in the country.