Snipers, gunfire in Syrian cities
Cairo - Arab League chief Nabil al-Arabi said on Monday that snipers and gunfire remain in Syrian cities and called for an immediate halt to the shootings, in his first remarks since Arab monitors were deployed.
"There are still snipers and gunfire. There must be a total halt to the gunfire," the League chief said, in the face of mounting criticism of the hard-won observer mission's failure to stem the persistent bloodshed.
Arabi charged that snipers were still deployed on rooftops in protest centres threatening the lives of civilians, even as monitors try to end the Syrian government's deadly crackdown that has claimed thousands of lives since March.
"We must raise this with the Syrian government because the aim [of sending monitors] is to stop the shooting and protect civilians," Arabi told a news conference at Arab League headquarters in Cairo.
But "it is difficult to say who is firing on whom", he said.
The head of the observer mission, Sudanese General Mohammed Ahmed Mustafa al-Dabi, is due to send his "first report in the next two days" on the situation in Syria, Arabi said.
"An Arab foreign minister has asked that a ministerial meeting be convened to discuss the report," he added.
List of prisoners
According to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, at least three civilians were killed by gunfire in Syria on Monday, two of them in separate shooting incidents in the flashpoint central city of Homs.
The third victim was a farmer who was hit by a stray bullet as security forces opened fire during a raid on a village near Damascus to hunt down suspects wanted by the authorities.
Arabi said the Arab League may call for a meeting next week of foreign ministers to evaluate the work of the observers, who arrived in Syria on December 26 and began touring protest hubs the following day.
According to Arabi, Syrian authorities released 3 848 detainees since the observer mission started last week, adding that the Arab League had asked the Syrian opposition to provide it with a list of names of those who remained in custody.
After weeks of stalling, Syria agreed last month to allow the deployment of observers as part of a Arab League roadmap calling for the withdrawal of the military from cities and residential districts, a halt to violence against civilians and the release of detainees.