CBS rides with Arab League observers in Syria

Five thousand people have died since government forces began attacking protesters last march. The dictator Bashar al-Assad promised to end the violence. And the Arab League sent in monitors to hold him to his word. But so far, nothing's changed. CBS News correspondent Elizabeth Palmer is in Damascus, and had a chance to follow the Arab League observers on patrol.

DAMASCUS -- A few decals show that a car is being used by the Arab League mission. Another day, and a team of observers hits the road.

Official decals on the cars of the Arab League observers mean they're hardly likely to surprise anyone when they arrive.

Their assignment: to verify whether the Syrian government has stopped killing protestors.

Just ahead, the head of the team and the observers in the black car. Next to them is a van full of Syrian soldiers. In front, two police cars. Aand they have regime bodyguards. So this is hardly low profile.

By the time they show up at Damascus Criminal Justice Headquarters, it's not a surprise.

The Syrian regime is watching the observers' every move, as they try to watch the regime.

Observers from the Arab League arrive at the Damascus Criminal Justice Headquarters, where the image of Syrian president Bashar al-Assad is prominent on the walls.
Observers from the Arab League arrive at the Damascus Criminal Justice Headquarters, where the image of Syrian president Bashar al-Assad is prominent on the walls.

At the detention center they were allowed into the cells to see who'd been arrested in the uprising. But CBS News' Palmer had to stay behind.

Later, they said there were protestors locked up, but saw no signs of torture.

Anwar Malek - an observer who quit this week - says that's a perfect example of a whitewash by the Syrian government.

"The mission was a farce - and the observers have been fooled," said Malek.

The fact is - this is mission impossible.

A team of 167 observers to cover the whole country, resented by the Syrian government, with little support and inadequate protection.

In the city of Latakia earlier this week - one of the observer convoys was battered by a pro-regime mob. They only just escaped.

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In the final analysis, they are merely observers and powerless to stop the killing. The observers are only going to be here for a few more days. Under the current plan, they're due to be gone by the middle of next week and their report submitted to the Arab League by next Thursday.

Has the violence decreased since the arrive of the observers?

The United Nations has been trying to keep track and estimates that an average 40 people have died every single day since the observers arrived.

  • Elizabeth Palmer

    Elizabeth Palmer has been a CBS News correspondent since August 2000. She has been based in London since late 2003, after having been based in Moscow (2000-03). Palmer reports primarily for the "CBS Evening News."


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