Today, the Arab League announced that the Syrian government has withdrawn heavy weapons from inside cities and has released several thousand prisoners. However, security forces continue to kill protesters despite the presence of the Arab League observer mission. The mission has been traveling around the country since December 24, 2011 to assess the Syrian government’s compliance with a peace plan.
The Arab League President has called for a ceasefire as snipers continue to target protesters. The video below shows some of the devastation in the city of Homs that has happened as a result of months of violence.
Over the past 10 days it is estimated that at least 286 people have been killed. Avaaz, an international rights group, has claimed that over 6,200 have been killed since the start of the violence. In December, the United Nations put the death toll at over 5,000.
Arab League Monitoring Mission Criticized
The Arab League monitoring mission continues to encounter criticism. It has come under fire because the mission’s leader, Sudan’s Mohammed Ahmed Mustafa al-Dabi, has been accused of directing gross human rights violations when he served as the head of Sudan’s military intelligence and state minister for security arrangements. As United to End Genocide’s Executive Director Bama Athreya questioned last week:
“What possible signal could the Arab League be seeking to send Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad by appointing a general who oversaw grievous human rights violations and killings in his own country to lead a human rights observer mission in Syria? Maybe the more important question is how will the United States and the rest of the international community respond to this travesty?”
Additionally, the ongoing violence in the presence of the monitors has continued to cast doubt on the ability of the mission to be successful. Over the weekend, the Arab League parliament called for the withdraw observers from Syria. The parliament’s chairman said, “[The mission] is giving the Syrian regime an Arab cover for continuing its inhumane actions under the eyes and ears of the Arab League.” However, the parliament’s request is not binding and, as of right now, additional monitors are expected to deploy later this week.
Other Developments to Watch For in the Coming Days
The United Nations Security Council is expected to resume its discussion of a resolution on Syria drafted by Russia sometime this month. Russia has played a problematic role by supporting the Syrian government diplomatically and financially.
Today, the opposition in Syria announced that armed groups had seized two military checkpoints. As violence continues in Syria, increased clashes between the Syrian army and armed opposition groups are likely.