The Arab League mission arrived in Syria five days ago, where the 60 observers (photo, from lefigaro.fr) are to verify the implementation of a peace plan which requires the end of all violence, the withdrawal of troops from the streets and the release of political prisoners.
And in a video posted online which cannot be verified, one official appears to express concern about government snipers firing at Syrian protesters from rooftops.
“We saw snipers in the town, we saw them with our own eyes,” the observer told residents in a conversation filmed on Friday.
“We’re going to ask the government to remove them immediately. We’ll be in touch with the Arab League back in Cairo. If the snipers are not gone in 24 hours, then there will be other measures taken.”
And a source close to the delegation has been quoted by the German news agency DPA as saying that “the observers saw the snipers with their own eyes in Douma”, referring to a volatile suburb of the Syrian capital, Damascus.
On Friday up to 100,000 people were reported to have protested in Douma, and the observers were within “hearing distance” from the troops firing on demonstrators.
According to the UK-based Syrian Observatory of Human Rights security forces used nail bombs against protesters, in addition to the tear gas.
This comment by a member of the delegation comes after the mission chief caused outrage following a visit to the northern city of Homs on Thursday. Sudan’s Gen Mustafa al-Dabi told the Reuters news agency that “some places looked a bit of a mess but there was nothing frightening”.
After beginning their one-month mission on Tuesday in Homs, which has seen the brunt of the violence, the Arab League observers have spread out in small groups across the country’s provinces.
And although some tanks have reportedly pulled back, activists estimate that more than 150 people have been killed since monitors arrived.
On Friday at least 35 people were killed, activists said, when security forces opened fire in order to stop protesters holding rallies in cities including Hama, Deraa and Homs, which were being visited by monitors.
In the meantime Syrian state media showed pictures of what it described as pro-government rallies in several cities with protesters angry at a foreign-orchestrated “plot”.
Meanwhile representatives from the two main Syrian opposition parties signed a draft agreement in order to unite against the country’s president Bashar al-Assad, but also to set up a “parliamentary system for a democratic, pluralistic civil state and guarantees the exchange of power through elections”.
Analysts say this pact between the Syrian National Council (SNC) – the leading opposition group in exile – and the National Coordination Body for Democratic Change in Syria (NCB) – whose majority is inside the country and which had disagreed with the SNC’s earlier calls for foreign intervention – is a serious attempt to unite against Assad.
Under the new pact both sides “reject any military intervention that harms the sovereignty or stability of the country, without considering Arab intervention to be foreign”.
The agreement, which also outlines a one-year transitional period that could be renewed once if necessary, is to be presented to other opposition groups next month at a conference next month.
According to the UN more than 5,000 people have been killed since the beginning of the uprising against president Bashar al-Assad. The Syrian government says 2,000 security forces personnel have died.
But because most foreign media are barred from reporting freely in Syria, casualty figures and other information are hard to verify.