Syrians disappointed by Arab League observers who find the situation in Homs reassuring
Observers do not find anything “frightening” in the city even though 30 people were killed there in the past three days. Human Rights Watch says prisoners are being moved to military bases off limits to Arab League monitors who travelled today to Deraa, Idleb, Hama and locations around Damascus.
Damascus (AsiaNews) – The visit of Arab League observers to Homs yesterday has been met with disappointment and anger. For months, the city has been the scene of unrest and killings by the Assad regime, but nothing there was "frightening", chief observer Mohammad Ahmed Mustafa al-Dabi said yesterday. Whilst admitting that in some parts of the city the situation was "not good", he said the general mood was calm and "reassuring".

In the past few days however, the city was bombed and shelled by tanks, with dozens of dead, the opposition said. During his visit, Dabi said he did not see any tank, only the odd armoured vehicle. Confirming that 20 observers would remain in the city, he called for patience since yesterday was the first day of their investigation.

Some Homs residents have complained that the observers seemed indifferent to what they had to say and showed little sympathy for the demonstrators. Yesterday alone, some 70,000 came out to protest.

Mohammed Saleh, an activist in Homs, said the observers did not visit the areas most affected by bombardment.

The opposition is afraid that the Arab League mission, which was intended to monitor the implementation of the peace plan, may actually end up whitewashing the regime’s crackdown. So far, some 5,000 deaths have been blamed on the authorities with many more arrested.

Today, state television said 755 prisoners “who did not have Syrian blood on their hands” were freed.

The release of political prisoners was one of the terms of the peace deal agreed between Syria and the Arab League whose implementation the monitoring mission is supposed to be overseeing.

New York-based Human Rights Watch warned the Arab League that many prisoners were transferred to areas inaccessible to observers.

According to the protocol signed by the League and Syria, observers are free to communicate with anyone in coordination with the Syrian government. However, Syria’s Foreign Ministry said that some military sites are off limits.

Today observers travelled to Deraa (south), Idleb and Hama (north), as well as locations around Damascus. All of them are opposition strongholds.