Frustrated by a mounting death toll and the Syrian government's refusal to do anything about stopping it, the Arab League has paved the way for direct communication with the Free Syrian Army and other elements of opposition to President Bashar al-Assad. Further, the League has called for its members to recognize the opposition Syrian National Council as the legitimate government in Syria and for the intervention of United Nations Security Council peacekeepers.
More than 5,000 people have died in Syria, many in recent weeks in the century city of Homs, which has a concentration of anti-government sentiment and support. The Syrian armed forces have, in recent weeks, continued to pound Homs with bullets and mortar fire. Some observers reported rockets being fired in the city. The League canceled a recent monitoring mission when it became clear that the presence of international observers wasn't stopping the violence.
Tunisia will be the setting on February 24 for the first meeting of a "Friends of Syria" group, containing representatives from nations in the Arab and Western worlds. A similar group helped coordinate the initial stages of intervention last year in Libya.
Adding its support to the Syrian opposition was Al-Qaeda, whose new leader, Ayman al-Zqwahri, released a videotaped statement calling on Syrians to throw off their government themselves, without relying on other governments.
The Syrian government, meanwhile, said that it was considering a new draft constitution. Assad has previously said that he and his government would pursue the kinds of reforms demanded by the opposition.