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Gunfire In Syria Cities Said To Continue As Arab League Chief Cites Pullback

A tear-gas canister is thrown back toward security forces in Homs in late December.
Arab League chief Nabil al-Arabi says the Syrian military has withdrawn its forces from cities around the country but that there is still gunfire and snipers in some places.

Arabi said observers sent to Syria to see if the government there was complying with promises to end the 10 months of violence had helped to provide food to people in Homs, one of the more restive cities.

The Arab League observers have been criticized by Syrian opposition forces for failing, so far, to properly appraise the level of violence in Syria in public comments.

On January 1, the Arab Parliament, an advisory body to the league, said the observers should be withdrawn because of the continuing violence.

Meanwhile, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights claimed on January 2 that army deserters in the northern province of Idlib have raided two military bases in the area and captured "dozens" of soldiers.

It was not possible to independently verify that claim.

The UN estimates more than 5,000 people have been killed since violence broke out in Syria early last year.

compiled from agency reports