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article imageSyria withdraws tanks from Homs, ongoing violence reported

By Lynn Herrmann     Dec 27, 2011 in Politics
Damascus - The Syrian army halted its brutal attacks on the city of Homs on Tuesday and has begun withdrawing its tanks, as members of the Arab League arrived to monitor the situation, meeting with local activists and leaders.
About 60 Arab League monitors have arrived to assess the situation in Syria, and are among the first allowed by the Syrian regime. As monitors began their work at Homs, at least 20,000 demonstrators gathered in city neighborhoods to “reveal the crimes committed by the regime,” the Globe and Mail reports.
Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s government signed on to the Arab League plan just days ago, but since then has increased its attempts to stop the country’s uprising against his regime.
However, with the arrival of the monitors late Monday, attacks in Homs by the regime have stopped, with tanks seen pulling out of the area. British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights noted only a partial pullout, with others relocating to government facilities “where (they) can deploy again within five minutes,” the Associated Press reports.
Homs, Syria’s third-largest city with a population of 800,000, is considered the epicenter of the revolt against al-Assad. It has been under relentless military artillery attack.
Tens of thousands of people are in the streets of Homs, with reports of ongoing violence, BBC reports. The people are demanding international protection. Despite such reports, the head of monitors was positive about his team’s visit.
“Today was very good and all sides were responsive,” Gen. Mustafa Dabi of Sudan told Reuters. However, Rami Abdelrahman of SOHR said, "There are at least 70,000 protesters. They are marching towards the city centre and the security forces are trying to stop them. They are firing teargas."
The Arab League plan calls for the government’s removal of heavy weapons and security forces from city streets, allowing journalists and human rights workers access to the country, and begin discussions with opposition leaders.
Earlier this month, Human Rights Watch issued a report revealing the Assad regime’s widespread attacks and use of torture against demonstrators since protests began last March.
The report notes the “crimes against humanity” in Syria are known at all levels of the military and government, including President al-Assad.
According to the UN, more than 5,000 people have been killed since the beginning of protests, with the vast majority of those killed being unarmed, according to the BBC.
Because most foreign media has been banned from Syria, casualties and hard information are difficult to verify.
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