On 19 December, Syria agreed to an Arab League deal to allow observers into the country after the bloc threatened to report it to the UN Security Council for further action if they were not permitted entry.

An advance team led by the Arab League’s assistant secretary-general Sameer Seif el-Yazal will arrive in Damascus on 22 December.

But many are sceptical that the mission, which will take human rights workers and journalists into Syria, will achieve anything as clashes between security forces and protestors continue. On the same day that Syria agreed to allow observers in, activist groups reported 150 deaths, of which 70 were soldiers who had defected. The soldiers were shot dead in the north-western Idlib province. The crackdown on the demonstrations, which began in February, has left more than 5,000 dead.

The Arab League has already suspended Syria’s membership and imposed sanctions.