BEIRUT, Lebanon — Syrian security forces are still killing antigovernment protesters despite the presence of foreign monitors in the country, the head of the Arab League said Monday. But he insisted the observer mission has yielded important concessions from the Damascus regime, such as the withdrawal of heavy weapons from cities.
Syria's opposition cautioned the observers not to be taken in by President Bashar Assad's government, which has unleashed a withering military assault to crush a 9-month-old uprising. Opposition groups have been deeply critical of the mission, saying it is simply giving Assad cover for his crackdown.
The United Nations estimates more than 5,000 people have been killed since the revolt erupted in mid March. Activists say that in the week since the observers started their work in Syria on Dec. 27, hundreds have been slain. The Local Coordinating Committees, an umbrella group of activists, said 20 people were killed across the country Monday. It put the death toll at more than 390 people since Dec. 21.
"Yes, there is still shooting and yes there are still snipers," Arab League Secretary-General Nabil Elaraby told a news conference in Cairo. But he stressed the achievements of the mission, saying Syria's government has pulled tanks and artillery from cities and residential neighborhoods, and freed about 3,500 prisoners. He said food supplies have reached residents and bodies of protesters have been recovered.