Fighting in Syria Kills at Least 20

Posted October 29th, 2011 at 4:35 pm (UTC-5)
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At least 20 soldiers and civilians were killed in violence in Syria Saturday, following one of the deadliest days of the seven-month-old uprising against the government in Damascus.

Activists said at least three people died when security forces shelled parts of the restive northern city of Homs. Arab sat channels broadcast videos showing troops loyal to President Bashar al Assad bombing the Bab Amr district, destroying or damaging a number of houses.

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said at least 17 soldiers were killed in overnight clashes with suspected army deserters. Al Arabiya TV reported that 90 soldiers defected from the Syrian army in the Bab Amr district Thursday, causing pro-Assad troops to attack.

A Syrian opposition leader also told the TV the Syrian government is “worried that the rebel soldiers turn Homs into their capital, as Libyan rebels did with Benghazi.”

The United Nations and Arab League condemned the violence. U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon urged Syria to “immediately halt military operations and said the calls of the Syrian people for change must be answered with serious reforms, not repression and violence.”

The Arab League committee on Syria has sent an urgent message to Damascus, demanding that it “stop killing Syrian civilians.” Qatari Foreign Minister Fouad Ajami, who heads the committee, is due to meet with Syrian officials Sunday in Doha to try and start a dialogue with the opposition. But several opposition leaders called the meeting “a waste of time.”

Ajami said that many opposition protesters cannot abandon their fight because they have been identified by pro-government forces and will be killed if a ceasefire is called. He said it is still too early to say who is going to win the conflict, but he pointed out that “gravity is working against the regime.”

On Friday, security forces killed at least 40 people as anti-government protesters rallied across the country. Activists say most of the deaths occurred in the Homs and Hama regions.

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has been facing growing international condemnation for his crackdown on opposition protesters. The United Nations says the death toll from seven months of anti-government protests has topped 3,000.