Syria has missed a deadline to sign an agreement under which the Arab League planned to send observers to Syria, where the United Nations says 3,500 people have been killed since the start of the uprising in March.
Damascus is facing the prospect of economic sanctions after the deadline to sign the protocol allowing rights monitors into the country or face punitive measures passed with no apparent response from the country.
As the deadline expired on Friday, fresh anti-government protests were reported in various towns across Syria and activists said that at least 26 people had been killed, most of them in the central province of Homs.
The province also saw an ambush which led to the killing of 10 armed forces, including six elite military pilots, according to the Syrian armed forces quoted by SANA news agency.
The continuation of violence prompted Turkey and France to propose a humanitarian intervention.
Turkey’s Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu hinted that he could attend a meeting of Arab League foreign ministers on Sunday at which possible sanctions could be discussed, and said Turkey was considering taking further steps against Syria in conjunction with the bloc.
“We have a road map that we have agreed on with the Arab League,” Davutoglu said.
“I want to say clearly we have no more tolerance for the bloodshed in Syria. The attitude of friendly and fraternal countries on this subject is clear.”
The sanctions could include a suspension of commercial flights to Syria and a halt to dealings with its central bank, Afifi Abdel Wahab, Egypt’s envoy to the league, said in Cairo on Thursday.
Wahab’s comments came after members of the Arab League convened in Cairo to discuss the escalating crisis in Syria in the wake of President Bashar al-Assad’s refusal to end his crackdown on anti-government protesters.
Al Jazeera’s Hashem Ahelbarra, reporting from the Turkish province of Hatay on the border with Syria, said he was in a refugee camp when news broke that Assad refused to sign the deal.
“People there were saying that this should provide the international community a sense of clarity, [that it has] to move forward and impose sanctions coupled with a military intervention.
“Refugees have been here for five months. They do not want to stay there forever. They know that for Assad’s regime to collapse, there need to be international intervention coupled with support to army defectors.”
Last week, Walid al-Muallem, the Syrian foreign minister, said the planned Arab League mission placed “impossible conditions” and gave the 500-member monitors’ team too much authority that infringed on Syria’s sovereignty.
In another development, the UN voiced fresh alarm at consistent reports of executions and torture of civilians including children in Syria as well as killings of demonstrators.
Claudio Grossman, the chairman of the UN Committee against Torture, spoke in a news briefing of “rife or systematic attacks against [the] civilian population, including the killing of peaceful demonstrators”.
He said that reports of children suffering torture and mutilation during detention were of particular concern, and that Syrian authorities had been acting with total impunity in what it called “gross and pervasive” human rights violations.
Composed of 10 independent experts, the committee voiced concern for the “extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, arbitrary detention by the police forces and the military; and enforced and involuntary disappearances”.
The committee normally reviews each country’s record every four years, but took the unusual step of issuing a spontaneous demand to the Syrian government to explain its actions.