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Continued killing of protesters in Syria is reported

Arab League monitors Wednesday received eyewitness accounts about the Syrian government's crackdown on dissent in the central city of Homs as new violence flared just dozens of miles away in Hama, where activists said troops opened fire on thousands of unarmed protesters, killing six.

Though President Bashar Assad's regime has made concessions to the observers, including the release of more than 700 prisoners, the military was pressing ahead with a campaign to put down mostly peaceful protests.

In the two days since the Arab monitors arrived, activists said, troops have killed 39 people.

The continued bloodshed -- and comments by an Arab League official praising Syria's cooperation -- have fueled concerns among the Syrian opposition that the Arab mission is a farce and a distraction from the continuing killings.

The opposition suspects Assad is only trying to buy time and forestall more international sanctions and condemnation.

The 60 monitors -- the first Syria has allowed in during the nine-month uprising -- are supposed to ensure that the regime is complying with terms of an Arab League plan to end a crackdown that the United Nations says has killed more than 5,000 people since March.

The plan, which Syria agreed to Dec. 19, demands that the regime remove its security forces and heavy weapons from cities, start talks with the opposition and allow human rights workers and journalists into the country. It also calls for the release of all political prisoners.

Wednesday, the government released 755 prisoners following a report by Human Rights Watch accusing authorities of hiding hundreds of detainees from the monitors. It was the second concession in two days.

Monday, the army pulled some of its troops back from Homs after bombarding it for days and killing scores of people. Monitors who were allowed into the city were met by tens of thousands of protesters who called for Assad's execution.

Images obtained by the Associated Press from the city in the days leading up to the monitors' visit show army defectors inside a bombed-out building, firing machine guns through gaping holes in a wall.

In another, a huge crowd fills the street for a nighttime rally behind a giant banner of the uprising's revolutionary flag. Women, standing in a row, wear the flags, and a large sign overhead reads: "All the doors are closed except your door, God."

The images show the intensity of the opposition against Assad's regime, which began the offensive against Homs on Friday. It ended Tuesday when monitors arrived to start their one-month mission with a visit to the city.

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

According to officials and activists, the monitors went to several districts in Homs, including trouble spots in Baba Amr, Bab Sbaa and Inshaat.