A Syrian opposition group claimed Saturday that 130 people had been killed across the country in just 24 hours by President Bashar al-Assad’s forces.
The U.K.-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported the death toll while speaking to NBC News in London.
Activists also told Reuters Saturday that the bodies of 17 men previously held by Syrian security forces have been found in the city of Hama.
“They were killed execution-style, mostly with one bullet to the head. Iron chains that had tied them were left on their legs as a message to the people to stop resisting,” Abu al-Walid, an activist in the city, told Reuters by telephone.
Another activist said the bodies, their hands tied with plastic wire and some with their legs chained, were dumped in the streets of five Hama neighborhoods on Thursday evening.
Turkey was due to meet Gulf Arab states later Saturday to reinforce support for an Arab call for Assad to quit.
The Arab League and Western countries are pushing for a U.N. Security Council resolution on Syria, resisted by Assad’s ally Russia. The U.N. Security Council discussed a new European-Arab draft resolution on Friday aimed at halting the bloodshed.
The United Nations Children’s Fund also said Friday that at least 384 children had been killed and virtually the same number had been jailed during the course of the uprising.
UN Security Council weights action on Syria
The U.N., which estimated in mid-December that more than 5,000 people had been killed, says it can no longer keep track of the total death toll. The Syrian government says insurgents have killed more than 2,000 soldiers and policemen.
‘Siding with the Syrian people’
Turkey urged Syria’s leadership to comply with an Arab League transition plan that calls on Assad to step down.
“We are siding with the Syrian people and their legitimate demands,” Turkish President Abdullah Gul was quoted as saying by the United Arab Emirates newspaper al-Bayan.
Outside Syria capital, suburbs look like war zones
Turkish officials say the number of Syrians seeking sanctuary in Turkey has risen in the past six weeks, with 50 to 60 arriving daily, taking the total living in refugee camps to nearly 9,600 from about 7,000 previously.
More than 6,000 Syrian refugees have fled to Lebanon.
Turkey, which spent years rebuilding relations with Syria, turned against Assad after he ignored its advice to enact reforms to calm what began in March as a peaceful uprising against his rule, inspired by Arab revolts elsewhere.
Russia, which joined China in vetoing a previous Western draft U.N> resolution in October and which has since promoted its own draft, said the European-Arab version was unacceptable in its present form but added that it was willing to “engage” on it.
Russian U.N. Ambassador Vitaly Churkin criticized the draft, which endorses the Arab transition plan.
Moscow, he said, wants a Syrian-led political process, not “an Arab League-imposed outcome of a political process that has not yet taken place” or Libyan-style “regime change.”