Opposition groups in Syria have criticised the effectiveness of peace monitors stationed by the Cairo-based Arab League in towns across the country. Conflict has continued between government forces and its opposition and the death toll have continued to rise as a result.

The monitors, which were deployed on 26 December, are part of a mission to oversee the implementation of a peace plan. The plan includes the scaling back of the government’s military presence and freeing of thousands of political prisoners detained for their opposition to President Bashar al-Assad.

While Arab League secretary general Nabil Elaraby has said that state forces had withdrawn from residential areas, activists maintain that little has changed since the intervention. There are reports that the army has hidden some of its armour and substituted its tanks with armoured vehicles belonging to the police.

Meanwhile, cracks have formed in a pact brokered a week ago between Syria’s two main opposition groups, the Syrian National Council (SNC) and National Coordination Body for Democratic Change in Syria (NCB). The agreement covers the transition period should the groups successfully oust Al-Assad’s regime. SNC has stated that the pact “conflicts with the SNC’s political programme and with the demands of the Syrian revolution”.