Syria unrest: Arab League calls for end to shooting

Arab League secretary general, Nabil al-Arabi: "We hope to see an end to all these violent activities"

The Arab League secretary general has called for an end to shootings in Syria, warning snipers remain a threat.

Nabil al-Arabi said "all signs of military presence" had left the cities, with tanks and artillery removed.

Some 60 Arab League monitors are checking compliance with a peace plan, but correspondents say protesters are frustrated they cannot stop killings.

The UN says more than 5,000 people have been killed in a crackdown on anti-government protests since March.

There has been no let-up in violence, and activists say at least 390 people have been killed since the observers arrived last week.

Activist group the Local Co-ordination Committees said 20 people were killed on Monday, 11 of them in the flashpoint city of Homs.

Meanwhile in northern Idlib province, mutinous troops killed, wounded or captured a number of government soldiers in attacks on three checkpoints, London-based opposition group the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.

There has also been criticism of the head of the monitoring team, Sudanese Gen Mustafa al-Dabi - who is regarded by some as biased towards the Syrian government.

And on Sunday, the Arab Parliament, an advisory body to the league, said the observers should be withdrawn because of the continuing violence.

Rooftop snipers

Syria deaths

  • More than 5,000 civilians have been killed, says the UN
  • UN denied access to Syria
  • Information gathered from NGOs, sources in Syria and Syrian nationals who have fled
  • The death toll is compiled as a list of names which the UN cross-references
  • Vast majority of casualties were unarmed, but the figure may include armed defectors
  • Tally does not include serving members of the security forces

Source: UN's OHCHR

At a news conference at the league's headquarters in Cairo, Mr Arabi said the mission needed more time to complete its work.

The league would then report on the monitors' activities and decide if more work was needed, he added.

He said the military had withdrawn heavy weapons from residential areas and was on the outskirts of cities, but the violence had not ended.

"All signs of military presence have been withdrawn from the cities; tanks and cannons have been removed ... and are now away from residential areas," he said.

"The observer mission was able to take food supplies into some cities, specially Homs. It also managed to bring out corpses.

"I have spoken with the head of mission and yes, shots are still being fired and there are still snipers in action. We want all these signs of violence to disappear."

Syrian anti-government protester looks at security forces in city of Homs - 1 January Protesters are frustrated with the Arab League's efforts

He added that it was difficult to tell who was firing on whom.

Mr Arabi added that the government had released about 3,500 prisoners since the mission arrived.

The Arab League had asked the opposition to provide it with a list of those they think are still in custody, he said.

The removal of heavy weaponry and freeing of political prisoners are two key points of the Arab League plan, and this will enable the Syrian government to say it is in compliance, says the BBC's Jon Donnison.

The government of President Bashar al-Assad says it is fighting armed groups and that 2,000 security forces personnel have died.

Casualty figures and other information are hard to verify as most foreign media are barred from reporting freely in Syria.

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