As many as 22 people have been killed by the gunfire of Syrian security forces across the country on Thursday, Al Arabiya reported citing Syrian activists.
The head of the rebel Free Syrian Army called on Thursday for the Arab League to withdraw its observers from Syria, qualifying the bloc’s monitoring mission a failure.
“We hope they will announce that their mission was a failure and that they will be withdrawn,” Colonel Riyad al-Asaad, who is based in Turkey, told AFP in a telephone interview.
“We call on the Arab League to step aside and let the United Nations take over responsibility as it is more apt to find solutions,” he added.
Arab League ministers are to discuss the mission at a weekend meeting in Egypt.
Colonel Asaad said his group did not wish for the observers to be sent back to Damascus after that meeting.
“We don’t want them back in Syria,” he said.
The observers have been in Syria since Dec. 26 trying to assess the Assad regime’s implementation of a peace agreement aimed at ending a fierce crackdown against a 10-month popular revolt.
The mission has come in for scathing criticism from Syrian democracy activists who denounced it as “unprofessional.”
Arab League made mistakes
Qatar’s prime minister on Wednesday admitted that the Arab League had made ‘mistakes’ during its monitor mission in Syria as the taskforce faced criticism from the Syrian opposition.
“This is the first experience for us. I said we have to evaluate what sorts of mistakes” have been made, Sheikh Hamad bin Jassem al-Thani, who heads the bloc’s task force on Syria, was quoted as saying by the Kuwaiti news agency KUNA.
“There is no doubt for me. I can see there are mistakes, but we went there not to stop the killing but to monitor,” the Qatari prime minister added.
Sheikh Hamad did not clarify what mistakes had been made.
He also said it was Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s job to stop the killings, which the United Nations now puts at more than 5,000 since anti-government protests first erupted in the country in mid-March.
Earlier, opposition activists had criticized the latest effort from Syrian authorities to withdraw troops from the streets of strife-torn towns, adding that the reality of the situation contradicts statements by Arab League peace monitors.
The British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said that the authorities are breaking their promises to withdraw troops, whereas League Secretary General Nabil al-Arabi said in Cairo on Monday the monitors had reported back that state forces had withdrawn from residential areas.
“We are not seeing the release of detainees or the true removal of a military presence from the streets,” said Rami Abdelrahman, head of the Syrian Observatory.
“Army tanks have been replaced with police armored personnel carriers that still have the capability to shoot heavy weaponry,” he added.
One Syrian activist sent out a message to the Arab League Secretary General, according to Reuters news agency.
“Nabil al-Arabi, you are in Cairo and we’re in Baba Amr. Here are the tanks and there are your monitors,” the activist said in a video uploaded on the internet which showed a team of orange-vested men who appeared to be League monitors standing near an armored vehicle behind a barrier.
Meanwhile, Syrian opposition groups have been deeply critical of the mission, saying it is giving Assad cover for his crackdown. The Local Coordination Committees, an umbrella group of activists, says the observer mission is witnessing mainly regime-staged events, and they move about the country only with the full knowledge of the government.
Syrian dissident Omar Idilbi told The Associated Press that statements by Arab League officials “were surprising and we were shocked by what they said.” Idilbi was referring to al-Arabi comments on Monday in which he also said that Syria’s government has freed some 3,500 prisoners.
“Many videos posted by activists show that tanks are still in the streets, and since the mission arrived in Syria, the regime is staging wild campaigns of arrests,” Idilbi said. Still, he said, the mission’s presence had advantages such as ending the regime blackout on what is going on in Syria and releasing some activists.
After admitting mistakes with the Arab League monitor mission, Sheikh Hamad is now seeking the help of U.N. leader Ban Ki-moon.
A U.N. spokesman said that Ban and the sheikh “discussed practical measures by which the United Nations could support the observer mission of the Arab League in Syria,” AFP reported.
“We are coming here for technical help and to see the experience the U.N. has, because this is the first time the Arab League is involved in sending monitors, and there are some mistakes,” Sheikh Hamad was quoted as saying by KUNA.
The monitors had done their best, the prime minister said, but they do not have enough experience.
That is why “we need the experience from the U.N. and we need to see how we can evaluate if they go back, how they will work.” Sheikh Hamad said that if the observer mission goes back, the Syrian government must keep its “commitments” under the accord made with the 22-nation Arab League.
Arab League ministers are to discuss the mission at a meeting on Saturday. He said ministers would evaluate the crisis and “we will see whether we can continue the mission or not and how we can continue the mission. But we need to hear the reports of the people who have been on the ground first.”
Arab League adamant
Despite the Qatari premier’s comments, the Arab League said it will not withdraw peace monitors from Syria until their month-long mission in the country ends, a representative of an Arab state at the regional body said on Thursday.
“It is impossible for the Arab League to withdraw its monitors, regardless of the content of any of (the mission’s reports,” an Arab government representative said on condition of anonymity.