BEIRUT (Reuters) - An Arab League monitor told an angry crowd in Syria that his team’s job was only to observe, not to help them remove the president they have been rebelling against for nine months, live video on Al Jazeera showed on Friday.
“Our goal is to observe...it is not to remove the president, our aim is to return Syria to peace and security,” he said, speaking over a loudspeaker from a podium at a mosque filled with protesters in the Damascus suburb of Douma.
But the observer, who did not give his name, said he promised to convey the protesters’ sufferings.
“From what I have heard there is blood being shed,” he said. “That is for sure.”
A team of around 60 monitors has already arrived from a delegation that should ultimately number 150 and is expected to inspect Syria for about one month. They will check whether President Bashar al-Assad’s forces are implementing a peace plan that calls for an end to a crackdown on anti-government revolt.
Activists say they believe many monitors are pro-government or that they feel it is too difficult to communicate with the team away from government escorts. Inside the Douma mosque, the restless crowd seemed suspicious of the monitors.
A speaker from the mosque tried to calm the audience, pleading with them to let the monitor speak. But a man immediately broke the silence, shouting “My son is a martyr, they killed him,” rousing chants of “With blood and soul we will redeem the martyrs.”
The monitor, who asked the audience not to film him but who was broadcast on Al Jazeera Live, said: “We as monitors are not supposed to speak but the situation has forced me to say something: We are monitoring the elements of the protocol signed between the Arab League and the government.”
“This is a humanitarian mission to convey the existing problems and solve the crisis.”
The protocol requires that Syrian forces withdraw from cities and release detainees believed to still number in the thousands.
More than 5,000 people have been killed as the government tries to crush the protests. It says it is fighting Islamist militants steered from abroad who have killed 2,000 members of the security forces.
Reporting by Laila Bassam