Anti-Assad protest in Homs 311.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
BEIRUT - Syrians in a flash-point area of the city of Homs refused to
meet Arab League monitors in the presence of a Syrian army officer,
prompting the observers to withdraw from the area, activists said on
Monitors arrive in Syria; tanks fire in Homs
'Military action in Syria is lesser evil'
"The monitors left the Baba Amr neighborhood because they refused to
enter the neighborhood without being escorted by Lieutenant Colonel
Mudeen Neda from the Fourth Division," said Ahmed, a local activist and
resident of Baba Amr.
US skeptical of Syrian agreement on monitors
"The families of the martyrs and the wounded refused to meet them in his presence, and the monitors left," he said.
Earlier, live footage carried on al Jazeera television showed gunfire
and black smoke rising above Syria's central city of Hama on Wednesday
as dozens of men marched through the streets chanting "Where are the
Arab League monitors checking if Syria is ending a military crackdown on
popular unrest are due to visit the city on Thursday. In its footage, al Jazeera
showed one man bleeding from his neck as protesters shouted in the background.
State television Syria TV said Wednesday that Syria has released 755 people detained during the nine-month
revolt against President Bashar Assad, .
"Syrian authorities released 755 detained in recent
events whose hands were not stained with Syrian blood," the station said
in a news flash.
on Wednesday, Syrian television channel Addounia reported that the head
of the Arab League monitoring team told its reporter in Homs that the
observers saw gunmen in the flashpoint city.
"Yes...we saw gunmen in the city of Homs," the news flash quoted him as saying.
head of an Arab League mission investigating if Syria is following a
peace plan has said earlier that day that he saw "nothing frightening"
in the flashpoint city of Homs but many residents said they were already
losing trust in the monitors.
General Mustafa Dabi said his team needed more time to inspect Homs
before giving a final verdict, but residents in the hard-hit Baba Amr
district where the team took an initial tour said they felt monitors
were not responding to their grievances.
"There were some places
where the situation was not good," Dabi told Reuters by telephone on
Wednesday. "But there wasn't anything frightening, at least while we
were there. Things were calm and there were no clashes."
the heart of the nine-month uprising against President Bashar Assad's
rule and has become one of its bloodiest hotspots as armed rebels emerge
to fight government tanks and machine guns.
monitors are checking to see if Syria is withdrawing its troops from
cities and halting the violence that has threatened to spiral into civil
Activists said they showed the team buildings riddled with
bullets and mortar rounds and pointed out what they said were tanks but
only had two hours to give them a tour.
"I felt they didn't really acknowledge what they'd seen - maybe they had
orders not to show sympathy. But they didn't seem enthusiastic about
hearing people tell their stories," said Baba Amr resident and activist
Omar. "We felt like we were shouting into a void."
Dabi said his team did not see tanks but they did see some armored vehicles. He said his team planned to visit Baba Amr again.
"The situation seemed reassuring so far," he said. "But remember this
was only the first day and it will need investigation. We have 20 people
who will be there for a long time."
Mohammed Saleh, an activist in Homs told Reuters on Tuesday that the
army had pulled tanks away from the perimeter of Baba Amr in what
critics said was a move to hoodwink monitors.
Residents in Baba Amr were angry that they could not convince the
monitors to go into the worst-hit neighborhoods of the district, he