Syrian Tank 311.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
BEIRUT - Syrian army tanks were seen pulling out of Homs on Tuesday as a team of Arab League peace monitors headed for a first look at the protest hotbed city where 34 people were reported killed in the previous 24 hours.
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The British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights cited reports from opposition activists in Homs saying at least 11 tanks had left a district they attacked on Monday, and that other tanks were being hidden.
Opponents of President Bashar Assad say districts of Syria's third biggest city have been hammered by government troops and tanks in recent days, with the Baba Amr neighborhood taking a pounding from tank fire, mortars and heavy machineguns.
"My house is on the eastern entrance of Baba Amr. I saw at least six
tanks leave the neighborhood at around 8 in the morning (0600 GMT),"
Homs activist Mohamed Saleh told Reuters by telephone. "I do not know if
more remain in the area."
Amateur video recorded by activists on Monday showed tanks prowling
around Baba Amr, firing at unseen targets. Video showed gruesome
pictures of mangled bodies in the wreckage of building that bore the
signs of shelling.
Arab League monitors were expected to see for themselves whether Assad
is keeping his promise to cease military action against anti-government
protests that began in March. At least 5,000 people have been killed in
the crackdown by a UN count.
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"We are on our way to Homs, we are about to arrive," the head of
monitoring mission Sudanese General Mustafa Dabi told Reuters by
Assad's opponents fear that the monitors - who arrived in the country on
Monday after weeks of negotiations with Arab states - will be used as a
cloak of respectability for a government that will hide the extent of
The launch of the monitoring mission marks the first international
intervention on the ground in Syria since the revolt broke out nine
months ago. The government quickly cracked down on protests inspired by
uprisings across the Arab world.
The first 50 of an eventual 150 monitors arrived on Monday. They will be
split into five teams of 10. The teams will use government transport,
according to Dabi, a move likely to fuel charges by the anti-Assad
opposition that the monitoring mission will be impeded and hoodwinked
from the outset.
Arab League delegates insist the mission will nevertheless maintain the
"element of surprise" and be able to go wherever it chooses with no
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