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Arab mission to Syria to visit Homs Tuesday - source

MYT 4:45:00 PM

CAIRO (Reuters) - Monitors will visit Syria's restive city of Homs on Tuesday, a source at the mission told Reuters, as they seek to assess whether Damascus is ending a bloody nine-month crackdown on protests in line with an Arab League peace plan.

Three more people died in Homs on Sunday and 124 were injured in shelling of the city's Bab Amro district, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

Demonstrators protest against Syria's President Bashar al-Assad after Friday prayers in Binsh near Adlb December 23, 2011. Banner reads, "God is the greatest". Picture taken December 23, 2011. REUTERS/Handout

"The Arab monitoring team will visit Homs as it is the most turbulent place," the source said.

Syria has endured daily bloodshed for months as security forces struggle to suppress a popular uprising, at first peaceful but now increasingly violent, against President Bashar al-Assad whose family has ruled Syria for more than four decades.

Galvanised by a soaring death toll that has exceeded 5,000 according to The United Nations, Arab states have pushed Damascus to let in a team of about 150 observers to witness what is happening on the ground.

The first group of about 50 monitors, led by Sudanese General Mustafa Dabi, is expected to arrive in Syria on Monday.

It will be divided into five 10-man groups visiting the capital Damascus, Hama and Idlib on Tuesday and Qameshly, Tarsos, Panias and Der el-Zor on Wednesday.

COOPERATION

Arab League chief Nabil Elaraby has said it would only take a week to find out if the authorities are respecting the terms of its peace plan.

The government of Assad agreed at the start of November to a plan demanding an end to fighting, the withdrawal of troops from residential areas, the release of prisoners and the start of a dialogue with the opposition.

It balked for six weeks over letting in monitors before finally signing a protocol on monitors on Monday.

"There was complete cooperation from the brothers in Syria," said the source who was a member of a team that has visited Damascus last week to prepare for the monitoring mission.

Syrian authorities blame violence on armed groups they say have killed 2,000 soldiers and security force members this year.

Twin suicide car bombings struck Damascus on Friday, killing 44 people in the bloodiest violence in the capital since the revolt began in March which the government has blamed on al Qaeda.

Assad's opponents say they suspect his government carried out the bombings itself to prove to the world that Syria is facing indiscriminate violence by armed Islamists and to intimidate the work of the Arab League monitors.

Elaraby is set to meet the monitors Monday before they head to Damascus.

"This is the first mission for the Arab League of its kind and everbody is determined that it succeeds," the source said.

(Reporting By Ayman Samir; Writing by Tamim Elyan; Editing by Jon Boyle)

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