BBC’s Jim Muir: “The Arab observers were eagerly awaited especially in Homs”
27 December 2011 Last updated at 17:54
Angry protesters have confronted visiting Arab League monitors in Syria’s restive city of Homs, demanding international protection.
The observers are verifying compliance with an Arab League plan to end the government’s violent crackdown.
Tens of thousands protested in Homs as the monitors arrived. The Arab League said the first day was “very good”.
Tanks reportedly withdrew before the monitors arrived but activists say some were simply deployed out of sight.
The UN says more than 5,000 people have been killed in protests against President Bashar al-Assad’s rule since March.
‘Where is the world?’
The BBC’s Jim Muir in neighbouring Lebanon says it was a baptism of fire for the monitors who, after visiting the governor of Homs, travelled to the flashpoint district of Baba Amr.
There, our correspondent says, the monitors were besieged by angry residents eager to show the damage to the city and the pools of blood, as gunfire rang out in the background.
Video footage showed residents arguing with the monitors, trying to get them to go further inside Baba Amr to see the victims.
The residents in the video shout: “We want international protection” and “Where is the world?”
One of the monitors says that he is not authorised to speak.
There were reports of continued violence in Homs while the monitors were there. The Local Coordination Committees in Syria said 13 people were killed.
The head of the monitors was upbeat about the visit.
Sudan’s Gen Mustafa Dabi told Reuters news agency: “Today was very good and all sides were responsive.”
He added: “I am returning to Damascus for meetings and I will return tomorrow to Homs. The team is staying in Homs.”
However, our correspondent says the results were mixed at best, and the visit brought home how complex the situation is.
Abdul Omar, a spokesman for the London-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, told the BBC he had hoped for better results from the mission and that 10 observers for Homs was never going to be enough.
He said tens of thousands of people had come out onto the streets to demonstrate in one district of Homs but that the monitors did not go there.
Omar Shakir, an eyewitness in Homs, said Syrian forces were still attacking the city
Mr Omar said the Syrian government was playing cat-and-mouse with the protesters by withdrawing tanks from parts of the city.
He called on the Arab League to raise the Syrian situation immediately with the UN Security Council to obtain a meaningful resolution against the government.
Eyewitness Abu Rami told the BBC the security forces had changed clothes to appear like normal civilians.
Correspondents say there are also reports of another large protest in the city of Hama, with security forces opening fire on demonstrators in the central square.
Elsewhere in Syria, the Local Coordination Committees said 20 people had been killed, including in Damascus, Deraa and Latakia.
Casualty figures and other information are hard to verify from Syria as most foreign media are banned from reporting.
The Syrian government says it is fighting armed gangs and that hundreds of members of the security forces have been killed as well.
The Arab League mission, which may rise to 200-300 monitors, is to assess an initiative agreed with the Syrian government requiring all armed forces to withdraw from areas of conflict.
Damascus has pledged to allow the monitors full freedom of movement.