A rally in Zabadani awaits the arrival of Arab League monitors
CNN's Nic Robertson has been sending a series of Twitter messages today from Syria:
With the Arab League monitors on road to Zabadani, near Syria's border w/ Lebanon....Main road betwn Damascus and Beirut seems quiet with no checkpoints, but 10 kilometres from Zabadani onwards like ghost town, looks like front line. See people fleeing on foot, no possessions, say running from gunfire. People also fleeing in small vans, tell us Army shooting. They afraid and leaving now. Say tanks in central square being pulled because Arab League monitors coming.
Inside Zabadani now, deserted where we are. Lots of destruction, downed power line, see a few pro-Assad forces. Lots of Army checkpts to get into town, have seen dozens of people fleeing on foot and in cars....
We are with the Arab League monitors at a huge anti-Assad rally in the center of Zabadani. People...say water and electricity cut off 3 days ago --- turned back [on] just before the monitors arrived today. People say food in short supply, say OK for now but estimate only 10 days supply food left.This is city under siege.
Many people telling us Army shooting at them, also claim Army pulled back 10 tanks from streets just before Arab League monitors arrived today.
People overjoyed to see monitors, erupt in applause/cheers as they drive into square by mosque, carried 1 monitor on shoulders thru crowd. People desperate to tell...monitors their accounts of shootings, deaths, suffering under siege of city.
At front line soldiers show us body of a soldier recently shot & killed. Soldiers say, "Come see the snipers. Is this the freedom you want?" They are angry, shout pro-Assad slogans in road right at front line.
Government soldiers on front line very edgy & nervous, keep us waiting as they clear barricade to let us leave Zabadani. Leaving Zabadani by different road, Arab League monitors are stopped at Army checkpoint. We’ve been here more than an hour, not clear what happening.
Army finally opening up checkpoint by clearing away rocks barricading road. Gunfire broke out as Arab League monitors drove through, our car following. Not clear who firing or why.
As army APC escorts monitors away from front line, bullets whizzing past. Now in government-controlled area, large groups soldiers, APCs at roadside. Monitors now cleared Zabadani area, hooked up again with government escort, back on main highway to Damascus.