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Syria killings continue as monitors visit

BEIRUT -- Syrian security forces opened fire on thousands of anti-government protesters in the central city of Hama Wednesday and killed at least six people, according to activists, as Arab League monitors on a mission to end the regime's crackdown on dissent visited another flash point city nearby.

Though Syria has made some concessions to the monitors since they began work Tuesday, government forces have at the same time been pressing ahead with attempts to put down peaceful protests in Hama, Homs and other parts of the country.

Activists said at least 39 people have been killed by security forces in the two days since the observers arrived.

The government released 755 prisoners after a report by Human Rights Watch accused authorities of hiding hundreds of detainees from the observers.

It was the second concession in two days to the Arab League.

On Monday, the army pulled some of its troops back from the city of Homs after bombarding it for days and killing scores of people. It allowed the monitors to visit and as they came, tens of thousands of protesters poured into the streets, chanting calls for the execution of President Bashar Assad.

The 60 Arab League monitors in Syria are supposed to be ensuring the regime is complying with the terms of a plan to end the crackdown on protests.

The United Nations says more than 5,000 people have been killed in Syria since March.

The plan demands the government remove its security forces and heavy weapons from city streets, start talks with opposition leaders, and allow human rights workers and journalists into the country. It calls for the release of all political prisoners.

The Arab observers started their one-month mission with the visit on Tuesday to Homs -- the first time Syria has allowed outside monitors to the city at the heart of the anti-government uprising.

Several from the team of 12 stayed in the city overnight, and the team continued to work in Homs yesterday. There was no word on whether other teams went to different cities.

The monitors are expected to visit Hama, Idlib and Daraa Thursday, all centers of the uprising.

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