Soldiers and tanks began pulling out of Homs this morning, in response to the arrival of Arab League observers in Syria yesterday. Prior to the army’s retreat, fighting in Homs had been on the rise, with 34 civilians reportedly killed there yesterday. “The government’s goals haven’t changed fundamentally, but it appears to have shifted somewhat to a conclusion that appearing to cooperate with the Arab League would be more helpful for its interests,” one activist tells Bloomberg.
However, he notes that violence may simply become more “scattered” throughout the country as the army attempts to avoid the observers, and another human rights activist says forces remain in the suburbs and other less populated areas. The first group of observers, 50 strong, will visit Damascus, Homs, Idlib, Hama, and Daraa. A second group is expected soon, with up to 500 monitors eventually arriving. “We will see if they are really free to go wherever they want and can talk with the people,” says an Arab League rep. (Read more Syria stories.)