The Arab League chief says that the first Arab peace monitors will arrive in Syria this week.
Arab League Secretary-General Nabil Elaraby, speaking in Cairo, said an advance team would go to Syria on December 22, with the rest of about 150 monitors due to arrive by the end of the year.
The news came as activists said more than 100 people were killed in one of the bloodiest days of the nine-month revolt against President Bashar al-Assad.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said security forces machine-gunned soldiers deserting from their army base in the northwestern Idlib province on December 19, killing more than 60.
It said 40 civilians had been shot dead elsewhere.
The state news agency SANA said security forces had killed five "terrorists" in Deraa province on December 19.
It also said Assad had decreed the death penalty for anyone caught distributing arms "with the aim of committing terrorist acts."
compiled from agency reports