Arab League: Snipers Still Threaten Syrian Cities

Posted January 2nd, 2012 at 10:40 pm (UTC-5)
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The Arab League chief says snipers and gunfire remain a threat in Syrian cities, despite the presence of League monitors.

Speaking in Cairo Monday, Nabil El Araby called for an immediate cease-fire in Syria. He said Syria's military has withdrawn from inside cities, but that snipers are still killing people and making it difficult to distinguish who is shooting whom.

The Arab League has sent monitors to Syria to check on its compliance with a League plan for peace after a nine-month crackdown on anti-government protests. The plan requires the Syrian government to remove security forces and heavy weapons from the streets, start talks with the opposition, free political prisoners and allow monitors into the country.

El Araby said 70 monitors are in six Syrian cities, with 30 more monitors to join them soon. He said the monitors have secured the release of about 3,500 prisoners in Syria so far.

Activists say more than 150 people have been killed across Syria since the observers began their mission last week. On Monday, security forces killed at least three more civilians in Homs and the town of Douma, near Damascus.

Also Monday, Reuters quoted the director of the British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights as saying that army defectors captured dozens of security force members by seizing two checkpoints. Rami Abdelrahman said the operation took place in northern Idlib province. It was not immediately clear how many people were killed or captured by anti-government forces in Monday's attack.

The United Nations estimates that more than 5,000 people have died in Syria's violence since March during a crackdown on protests inspired by the Arab Spring democracy movement. The government of President Bashar al-Assad claims armed terrorists are driving the revolt.

Syrian authorities, under increasing international pressure, agreed last month to allow the Arab League monitoring mission. The deal required the government to give monitors freedom of movement through most of the country except for sensitive military sites.