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Protesters throng Syrian city amid visit

BEIRUT -- Tens of thousands of protesters thronged the streets of Homs yesterday, chanting to execute Syrian President Bashar Assad, shortly after his army pulled its tanks back and allowed Arab League monitors to visit the city at the heart of the uprising.

Amateur video released by activists showed one of the Arab monitors in Homs with an elderly man who pointed with his cane to a fresh pool of blood on the street, saying it was the blood of one of his sons killed a day earlier during a fierce bombardment of the city. The man, wearing a red-and-white checkered headdress, then called for the monitor to walk ahead with him to "see the blood of my second son" also killed in the onslaught.

"Where is justice? Where are the Arabs?" the old man shouted in pain.

Syrian tanks had been heavily shelling Homs for days, residents and activists said, killing dozens even after Assad signed on early last week to the Arab League plan meant to end the 9-month-old crackdown on mostly unarmed and peaceful protesters.

A few hours before the arrival of the monitors, who began work yesterday to ensure Syria complies with the League's plan, the army stopped the bombardment and pulled some tanks back.

However, amateur video shot Tuesday showed that forces fired on protesters in Homs during the visit by monitors. The British-based activist group Syrian Observatory for Human Rights confirmed that and said at least two people were killed from the fire.

After agreeing to the Arab League plan on Dec. 19, the regime only intensified its crackdown on dissent. Government troops killed hundreds in just the past week.

-- AP

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