Syrian soldiers kill youth / 2011 archive
Syrian soldiers kill youth / 2011 archiveIsrael news photo: ShamSNN screenshot

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has withdrawn tanks and heavy weapons from cities around the nation -- but his forces continue to kill unarmed protesters, the Arab League reports.

Some 3,500 political prisoners were allegedly freed by the Assad regime on Monday, but government forces continued to shoot to kill, even with Arab League monitors in the country, Arab League secretary-general Nabil Elaraby said Monday.

At least eight more protesters were killed, despite the presence of the monitors in the country. A child was shot dead Sunday, becoming the Syrian Revolution's first victim of 2012.

"Yes, there is still shooting and yes there are still snipers," Elaraby told a news conference in Cairo, where the headquarters of the Arab League is located.

The Arab Parliament, an organ within the Arab League, accused the Syrian president of making a mockery of the observer mission and voiced concerns that the mission could serve as a cover for Assad's "atrocities."

"Yes, killings continue. The objective is for us to wake up in the morning and hear that no one is killed. The mission's philosophy is to protect civilians, so if one is killed, then our mission is incomplete. There must be a complete ceasefire," Elaraby said.

However, the Arab League chief noted that there has been progress since the observers began their mission one week ago. Residents have been able to obtain food, and bodies of murdered protesters have been recovered.

Tanks and artillery have withdrawn from some cities and residential neighborhoods -- a fact confirmed to the Associated Press by Rami Abdul-Rahman, head of the British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. But Abdul-Rahman pointed out that it was just as easy for Assad to return the tanks and artillery to the cities as it had been to send them there the first time around.

Whether 3,484 political prisoners had truly been released, or when, Elaraby could not confirm. "We call for the release of all of them," he told reporters.

"Give the mission a chance to prove itself."