News / Middle East

Arab League Struggles As Syrian Violence Mounts

Arab league observers wearing orange vests oversee the releasing of Syrian prisoners who wait in queue to be released from Adra Prison on the outskirts of Damascus,  January 15, 2012
Arab league observers wearing orange vests oversee the releasing of Syrian prisoners who wait in queue to be released from Adra Prison on the outskirts of Damascus, January 15, 2012
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Syrian human rights activists say at least five people were killed by pro-government forces Monday, as Arab League monitors struggle to document the violence.  

It was another difficult day for Arab League monitors. One group, taken to hear evidence of unrest in areas just outside the capital, spent the morning listening to government official after government official tell of attacks against them.

The group listened patiently, asking questions and seeking clarification. One case seemed particularly confusing - a sanitation official who said opposition forces in the restive town of Douma were trying to sabotage their own water supply.

People in Douma talk to VOA about the ongoing violence

The same monitors had a more trying experience the day before, as they went beyond government-controlled areas to investigate an attack in Zabadani. The observers were welcomed as heroes, but soon found themselves fleeing under gunfire. Who fired the shots is unclear.

The observers, in their safety-orange vests, were meeting Monday just outside Damascus in a room decorated with portraits and photographs of President Bashar al-Assad and his father, Hafez. The uprising has been trying to end the Assad family's 40-year rule, first with peaceful protests, but increasingly with attacks by military defectors.

With the Arab League mission faltering, United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon again lashed out against the violence, saying when a leader is disconnected from reality and from the people, such a situation is inevitable. Speaking in Abu Dhabi, Mr. Ban said he hoped the Security Council would handle the issue with gravity.

"I know that there are some differences of opinions among the member states of the Security Council but the number of casualties have reached to such an unacceptable stage, we cannot let this situation continue like this way. This is my urgent appeal," saind the U.N. chief.

There has been little consensus internationally on intervening in the Syrian crisis, but the Arab League is set to consider a Qatari-proposed Arab force Saturday.

The Syrian government blames the unrest on extremists and terrorists, but has announced further concessions, including the approval of another political party, and the day before, the repeated offer of a general amnesty.

Few in the anti-government movement have any faith in the measures, saying they are far too little, far too late.

For the Arab League monitors, they have been overseeing the government's release of political prisoners. Asked how they can assure those released will not be thrown back into jail, one observer shrugged slightly and said "we have their phone numbers."

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