HOMS, Syria, Dec. 28 (UPI) -- Arab League monitors planned visits to three turbulent Syrian cities Wednesday to determine if the government is ending its violent crackdown on protesters.
Alaa Shalaby, an Arab League advance team member, said observers planned to visit Daraa, Hama and Idlib, CNN reported.
The monitors also plan to spend another day in Homs, their initial stop.
In Daraa, there were reports of violence ahead of the monitors' visit. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported four Syrian forces members were killed and 12 wounded after defectors ambushed their convoy. The organization said security forces arrested more than 20 people.
The Local Coordination Committees of Syria, another opposition group, said security forces used tear gas on demonstrators in Hama, while 7,000 protesters in Homs turned out to mourn two "martyrs," although an explanation about the martyrs wasn't provided.
The group said demonstrations were staged in Damascus, its suburbs, and in Idlib and Aleppo.
International news organizations cannot independently verify reports from within Syria because the government has restricted access.
The Arab League team is monitoring an initiative calling for Syrian President Bashar Assad's security forces to withdraw from cities, release detainees and end violence. Syrian state television Wednesday said the government was releasing 755 detainees "who were involved in the recent events" but who weren't "stained with the blood of the Syrians."
However, Human Rights Watch said in a release it received word that Syrian authorities moved hundreds of detainees to military sites to hide them from observers. The organization said a Syrian security officer in Homs relayed he received orders to help transfer detainees to a military installation soon after the government signed the Arab League protocol Dec. 19.
"Syria has shown it will stop at nothing to undermine independent monitoring of its crackdown," said Sarah Leah Whitson, HRW's Middle East director. "Syria's subterfuge makes it essential for the Arab League to draw clear lines regarding access to detainees, and be willing to speak out when those lines are crossed."
The organization said it was told by Syrian security that the government issued police identification cards to military officials, violating the Arab League initiative.
"The Arab League needs to cut through Syrian government deception by pushing for full access to anywhere Syria is holding detainees," Whitson said.
The United Nations said earlier this month more than 5,000 people have died since Assad began the violent crackdown on anti-government protesters calling for his ouster. But activist groups say the death toll tops 6,000.