Syrian army tanks have been seen pulling out of Homs, as Arab League peace monitors arrive to inspect the flashpoint protest city.
Their mission is to assess whether President Assad’s regime has halted a crackdown on a nine-month-long anti-government uprising.
But opposition activists say Syria’s third biggest city has been hammered by government tanks and troops in recent days, with 34 deaths on Monday.
At least 5,000 people have been killed since Syria’s protest movement started, according to the UN.
As the bloodshed spreads, Assad’s opponents fear the monitors will become a cloak of respectability for a regime that will hide the scale of the violence.
They say tanks have been withdrawn before from other restive cities such as Deraa and Hama only to return later.