Syran military pulls back as Arab League monitors arrive
Protesters across Syria say Arab League officials are being shown false signs of peace in the country and that as soon as the monitors leave, violence will resume.
Arab League monitors have arrived to investigate violence by the Syrian government against protesters in its cities.
As the 50 monitors have moved in, Syrian forces have seemed to move out, though gunfire and violence have persisted, so much so that monitors have been kept out of certain areas.
But where they've gone, they've been met by dozens, even hundreds, of residents who want the monitors help to document the violence and atrocities that have been reported. According to the United Nations, some 5,000 people have been killed in the attacks by Syrian military and secret police. Thousands more have been imprisoned without trial or charges.
Sebastian Usher, Arab affairs editor for the BBC, said fighting has intensified in Homs in recent weeks and the arrival of the monitors is the first break the besieged city has had.
"We know that Homs is one of the main flash-points in the conflict between government forces and the opposition," Usher said. "It's also where the army defectors, the soldiers who have joined the opposition, have been out in some strength. Originally they were there to protect the protesters, but we're getting more reports that the fighting is growing all the time."
To many, it seemed the Syrian government was trying to crush the rebellion as much as possible before the observers arrived. Usher said that while the tanks have pulled back, activists are saying some haven't even left the city, but rather have pulled back into hiding spots so they won't be visibly to independent observers.
"Their reading of that is this is just a temporary measure in order to show the monitors that the Syrian government is to some extent following the Arab League plan," he said. "Up until now, there clearly has not been much evidence of that."
Under the Arab League plan, all military equipment and forces was to be withdrawn from the cities and the government was to begin meaningful talks with opposition forces. Independent journalists were also to be allowed in to investigate the situation in the city. So far, there have been few signs of compliance.
Usher said he expected the Syrians to end violence against protesters in each city before monitors arrived, only to resume it once monitors have left the country.
Usher said many of the human rights activists that Arab League officials wanted to send on the mission had declined to participate, because the ground rules for the mission allowed Syrian government officials to be with the monitors at all times. They felt like that would put the protesters in grave danger.
And yet, despite that, many people have been rushing to the monitors when they arrive. According to the New York Times, they demanded that the monitors admit publicly that they were unable to visit some areas because of gunfire. So far, no such statement has been forthcoming.
"The Takeaway" is a national morning news program, delivering the news and analysis you need to catch up, start your day, and prepare for what's ahead. The show is a co-production of WNYC and PRI, in editorial collaboration with the BBC, The New York Times Radio, and WGBH Radio Boston.