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Critics also say the mission is far too small — and too dependent on government escorts — to be effective. The regime says the escorts are vital to the monitors’ personal safety.

Salman Shaikh, director of The Brookings Doha Center in Qatar, said it was impossible to determine who was behind the attack, even with the Arab League observers offering an outside perspective.

“This again points to the need to have full independent credible investigation,” he told the AP.

“I would actually say on the eve of the Arab League meeting, the Arab League mission is failing,” he added. “It is failing to protect civilians. We have not had a halt to the violence. I think the Arab League now needs to go to the United Nations and seek a helping hand from the international community.”

AP writers Albert Aji in Damascus and Sarah El Deeb in Cairo contributed to this report.