BBC News reported on December 27, 2011, on renewed violence in the city of Homs as more Arab League observers are due to arrive in Syria. Excerpts below:

At least 13 people died in gunfire and shelling on December 26, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights says.

Syria’s main opposition group has urged observers, arriving as part of a deal to try to end the violence gripping the country, to visit the volatile city.

The latest bloodshed is reported to have taken place in the Baba Amr district of Homs, which is reportedly besieged by government forces.
A number of people have been killed in the town by mortar shelling and machine gun fire over the last few days, activists say. It is expected to be one of the first destinations for the Arab observer mission.

BBC says that Homs may well prove to be a test case for the mission in terms of ascertaining whether they truly have unrestricted access and whether there is any peace for them to monitor.

The head of the Arab League, Nabil al-Arabi, has said it will take about a week to judge whether Syria really is complying with the agreement it signed, under which the observers are to monitor a complete halt to the violence, the withdrawal of armed forces, and the release of all detainees, of whom there are many thousands.

In advance of the observers’ arrival, activists accused the authorities of moving detainees onto military bases – where the observers are not allowed to go – and also of removing hundreds of bodies of killed protesters from the morgue at Homs.

On Sunday, the opposition Syrian National Council (SNC), the main umbrella group of Assad opponents, urged monitors to go to Homs without delay.

“Since early this morning, the [Homs] neighbourhood of Baba Amr has been under a tight siege and the threat of military invasion by an estimated 4,000 soldiers,” it said, adding that an unknown number of people had been killed and at least 120 injured.

Syria deaths
• More than 5,000 civilians have been killed
• UN denied access to Syria
• Information gathered from NGOs, sources in Syria and Syrian nationals who have fled
• The death toll is compiled as a list of names which the UN cross-references
• Vast majority of casualties were unarmed, but the figure may include armed defectors
• Tally does not include serving members of the security forces
Source: UN’s OHCHR

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