50 international monitors from Jordan, Egypt, Tunisia and several other Arab countries arrived in Syria on Monday night as part of an Arab League plan to end the Syrian regime’s bloody crackdown on a nine-month uprising. President Bashar al-Assad has pledged to withdraw tanks and troops from cities and to release political prisoners. But earlier on Monday, fresh reports of at least 30 people killed — confirmed by video footage — in Homs, Syria’s third largest city and a center of resistance throughout the uprising, have emerged, along with reports of neighborhoods left without food, water or electricity bloody corpses in the streets. Al Jazeera also reports that at least a dozen people were killed elsewhere throughout the country.
In Homs, armed military defectors were also reportedly fighting against soldiers. A resident of the city reportedly told Reuters that he had seen “‘ambulances filled with wounded soldiers passing by my window in the past days.’”
Ten Arab League officials accompanied the 50 monitors, who are led by Sudanese Lt. General Mohamed el-Dabi, a former head of military intelligence and external security. The observers are to travel to Homs and to other cities on Tuesday but human rights activists have been questioning how effective the mission will be and to what extent it will work independently of the Syrian government. The New York Times points out that the Arab League has not yet released a list with the names of the observers, though two human rights workers’ names and those of some others have been made public. Wissam Tarif, the Arab world campaigner for Avaaz, a global online activist site, said that his organization has repeatedly asked for biographies of the observers and had elected not to join the team.
According to the BBC‘s Jim Muir, prior to the arrival of the observers, activists have “accused the authorities of moving detainees onto military bases – where the observers are not allowed to go – and also of removing hundreds of bodies of killed protesters from the morgue at Homs.”
The Syrian government has promised “full freedom of movement” to the observers, but said that it will provide security. The leader of the main opposition group, the Syrian National Council (SNC), said that, while some of the monitors had arrived in Homs, they were not allowed to travel freely.
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