Syrian army pulls back from cities says Arab League

No word whether this is a temporary or tactical retreat, or whether this is Assad's idea of complying with the Arab League demand that all Syrian troops retreat from cities and towns.


Syria's military has withdrawn from residential areas and is on the outskirts of the country's cities, but gunfire continues and snipers are still a threat, Arab League Secretary General Nabil Elaraby said on Monday.

The United Nations says more than 5,000 people have been killed in a crackdown on protests which broke out against President Bashar al-Assad in March. Syrian authorities say armed groups have killed 2,000 security forces personnel.

"The latest telephone report said there is gunfire from different places, which makes it hard to say who is shooting who," said Elaraby. "Gunfire should be stopped and there are snipers."

"We call upon the Syrian government to fully commit to what it promised," he said.

Elaraby was speaking in Cairo a week after Arab League monitors arrived in Syria to check compliance with a peace plan which calls for Assad to withdraw troops and tanks from the streets, release detainees and talk to his opponents. Many Syrian opposition activists are skeptical that the mission can put real pressure on Assad to halt the violence.

The League claims that Assad has released almost 4,000 prisoners. Most human rights observers believe that tens of thousands have been detained so Assad has a ways to go on that score.

The Arab League parliament has called for an end to the mission so it's not clear what happens next. But as long as snipers and Assad's dreaded militia continue the killing, it's not likely to change what is happening on the ground.