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Syria Withdraws Tanks As Arab League Monitors Arrive

About 60 Arab League-sponsored monitors arrived in Syria last night and began inspecting the situation on the ground in cities that have served as focal points of the pro-democracy demonstrations. The AP reports that Syria suspended military operations and began withdrawing tanks as the Arab League monitors moved in and met with local leaders.

The monitors are charged with making sure that Syrian president Bashar al-Assad is complying with an Arab League brokered deal to end the violence and begin negotiations with the opposition. But activists fear Assad’s latest move is mainly just for show:

The British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said some army vehicles pulled out of Homs while others relocated to government compounds “where [they] can deploy again within five minutes.” …

Given the intensified crackdown, the opposition sees Syria’s agreement to the Arab League plan as a farce, and some even accuse the League of complicity in the killings. Since Syria signed on to the deal Dec. 19, activists said nearly 300 civilians have been killed. About 150 more died in clashes between army defectors and troops — most of them defectors.

Reuters reports that around 20,000 Syrians gathered in Homs today, as the Arab League monitors arrived, to protest against Assad’s government and violent crackdown.

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Sudanese General Mustafa Dabi is leading the monitoring team and said 100 more monitors are to arrive in the coming days. Dabi said his teams will use transportation provided by the Syrian government but insisted that his monitors will be able to maintain an “element of surprise” and be able to go wherever they choose without notice.