Conflict & Justice

Syria: Arab League observers witness government snipers in Deraa


A picture taken on November 24, 2011 shows a torn Syrian flag fluttering on top of a building in the flashpoint city of Homs. Eighteen members of Syria's security forces and two deserters were killed in clashes the same day, mainly in the flashpoint province of Homs, where at least 13 civilians also died, Syrian activists said.



Arab League observers have witnessed snipers stationed on rooftops in the town of Deraa in Syria, according to reports.

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In a video that appeared online today, a member of the League's mission can be seen having a heated conversation in Arabic. According to Al Jazeera, the footage shows him telling local residents:

"We saw snipers in the town, we saw them with our own eyes.

"We're going to ask the government to remove them immediately. We'll be in touch with the Arab League back in Cairo. If the snipers are not gone in 24 hours, then there will be other measures taken."

Observers have also witnessed snipers in Douma, a suburb of the capital, Damascus, a source told Deutsche Press-Agentur.

Activists accuse the Syrian government of deploying gunmen to shoot at protesters during opposition rallies. According to the anti-government Local Coordination Committees, security forces killed at least three people today and 35 yesterday, as massive rallies were called across the country to coincide with the Arab League's inspection.

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Demonstrators accuse the mission of being too small and too closely marshalled by the Syrian government to be effective, according to the Telegraph. The team's leader, General Mohammed Ahmed Mustafa al-Dabi of Sudan – who is himself accused of war crimes in Darfur – provoked anger when he said he had seen "nothing frightening" during a visit to the flashpoint city of Homs on Thursday, the BBC reported.

Activists told Al Jazeera that Arab League observers have been within "hearing distance" of troops firing on protesters in Damascus, have seen the bodies of people killed by security forces in Homs, and visited other victims in hospital.

However, its correspondent in the Lebanese capital, Beirut, said witnesses were too intimidated to tell the observers the full extent of the violence:

"[The observers] are being followed by Syrian forces as part of the agreement, so they are responsible for their safety. So some residents don't feel they have the freedom to speak in front of Syrian authorities in front of the observers."

The Syrian government maintains that terrorist gangs are to blame for the conflict, which the United Nations estimates has killed more than 4,000 people since February.

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