(DAMASCUS, Syria) — Observers from the Arab League have begun arriving in Syria in the wake of some of the worst violence of the nine-month crackdown on pro-democracy activists.
The Arab League monitors are supposed to learn whether President Bashar al-Assad is keeping his word in pulling out government soldiers and tanks from cities were much of the killing has taken place.
However, security forces under al-Assad’s control used the time before the arrival of the Arab League members to conduct large-scale assaults on dissidents and deserters.
Human rights groups said that at least 20 people in the city of Homs died in fighting on Monday. Homs has been one of the most active hotbeds of violence since al-Assad ordered the crackdown last March. Over 4,000 people are believed to have been killed although the actual death toll is impossible to verify.
The Arab League has promised that “civilian and military” experts will monitor the situation in Homs, Idlib, Hama and Dara’a, beginning Tuesday.
Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio
Camille Verdier, Steve Visser and Margot Haddad, CNN
Mohammed Tawfeeq and Gul Tuysuz, CNN