Monday, December 26, 2011

Syria: 50 Arab monitors arrive as bloodshed continues

A group of 50 Arab League observers has flown into Syria on a mission to monitor an end to violence the UN says has left more than 5,000 people dead.
Ahead of their arrival, gunfire and shelling in the volatile city of Homs claimed 23 lives, the opposition Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.
Opposition activists have urged the monitors to visit Homs.
Protests against President Bashar al-Assad began in March. The government says it is fighting armed gangs.
Casualty figures are hard to verify as most foreign media are banned from reporting in Syria.
The latest bloodshed is reported to have taken place largely in the Baba Amr district of Homs, which is reportedly besieged by government forces. The Observatory says that area alone saw 15 deaths on Monday.
A number of people have been killed in the city by mortar shelling and machine gun fire over the last few days, activists say.
Freedom of movement News agencies reported that 50 monitors and 10 officials from the Arab League secretariat flew in from Cairo - several days after a nine-member advance team arrived in Damascus.
The Syrian authorities have pledged to allow the monitors full freedom of movement without interference, as they assess whether Damascus is complying with the agreement it signed.
But the observers will have to depend on the regime to provide security.
Asked whether they could go to Homs, Foreign Ministry spokesman Jihad Makdissi said:
"They are here to monitor the violence from any side. So if the violence in Homs is generated by armed elements, yes they can. In general they can go anywhere but in co-ordination with the Syrian side. "
The BBC's Jim Muir in Beirut says that Homs may well prove to be a test case for the observer mission in terms of(...)More.

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