Arab League to send more monitors to Syria as protesters level criticisms

Here and Now

The Arab League says it will send more monitors to Syria, in an effort to try and ensure that Bashar al-Assad follows through on his commitment to end violence in his country.

Meanwhile Syrian protesters say al-Assad has no intention of really stopping the violence, and instead is just hiding tanks and soldiers from the Arab League monitors. They say the government is taking monitors only to areas loyal to the government and even going so far as changing street signs.

They also say that the military is painting some if its vehicles blue and calling them police vehicles so they can get away with leaving them in civilian areas. The United Nations estimate the violence has killed more than 5,000 people.

Victoria Nuland, a spokeswoman for the U.S. State Department, said the U.S. believes the violence is continuing.

“It continues very severely. People remain locked up. In some cases, the regime is actually putting out its own false reports that monitors are on the way. Demonstrators come out into the street and then they fire on them,” she said.

Paul Wood, a BBC reporter, said many civillians injured in the recent fighting have been smuggled across the border to Lebanon for treatment. Wood met 25-year-old Abu Hamza in Lebanon, who says he was shot by a sniper at a demonstration in Syria.

“I was on the ground for half an hour before anyone could get to me,” Hamza said. “They started dragging me away and then I was shot again. One of the guys who was helping me stuck his head up; he was shot in the head. He died instantly. A third man was also hit.”

Wood said most wounded protesters in Lebanon are absolutely terrified to be identified by name, even though they’re in a foreign country.

Syrian officials say they’ll allow peaceful protests to go forward. But some demonstrators say the Arab League’s monitors aren’t doing anything to make sure the violence is ending, but rather are only providing political cover for al-Assad’s government.

“The regime has trying to manipulate the work of the monitors from the start,” a Lebanon-based spokesman for the Homs Committee said. “The monitors argue amongst themselves. They are unprofessional and ineffective. And they are mostly documenting what’s happening on the ground. But after 10 months, the world doesn’t need any more documenting.”

Wood said the odds of a peaceful ending are slim, with growing numbers of Syrian soldiers switching loyalty from the government to the rebels. Many soldiers say that they’re faced with a terrible choice: shoot and kill unarmed protesters or be shot and killed themselves. That’s led more to make the choice to defect to the rebel cause.

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