Syrian Activists Say 23 Soldiers Killed in Fighting

Posted May 14th, 2012 at 7:35 am (UTC-5)
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Syrian activists say rebels killed 23 soldiers in battles near the city of Homs – one of the deadliest days for Syrian forces in a 14-month, anti-government uprising.

Activists say Monday's fighting broke out around the town of Rastan, about 25 kilometers north of Homs, after the town suffered heavy shelling from the Syrian army. They say several people were wounded and several army vehicles were destroyed during the clashes.

The fighting further undercuts a near month-old cease-fire that has been strained by consistent fighting between rebels and government forces and attacks by Syrian troops. United Nations monitors are in Syria trying to curb the violence.

On Sunday, Syrian troops backed by tanks killed at least five civilians, torched homes and looted shops when they overran a rebellious Sunni Muslim farming village.

The raid against the impoverished village of al-Tamana, 55 kilometers northwest of Hama, cast further doubt on the viability of U.N.-Arab League envoy Kofi Annan's plan to end the bloody conflict peacefully.

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said al-Tamana was “subjected to collective punishment” with “over half of its houses burned, several people executed [upon arrest] and the rest killed from bombardment.”

The watchdog group said at least 25 people – 18 civilians, five soldiers and two anti-government rebels – were killed Sunday as violence ripped through various Syrian flashpoint areas.

Opposition activists said al-Tamana had seen regular anti-government protests. The village was one of dozens of Sunni settlements torched since Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's forces seized control of the cities of Homs and Hama.

The U.N. says more than 9,000 have died in the 14-month conflict. Violence by Mr. Assad's forces and his armed foes has continued despite an April 12 cease-fire and the presence of a U.N. monitoring mission.