Clash between Syrian troops, defectors kill 13

Bashar Assad has responded to anti-regime protests that have gripped Syria since March with a fierce crackdown.

Beirut: Syrian troops on Thursday clashed with armed
men believed to be military defectors in a southern village
and a northwestern town, killing at least 13 people in the
latest sign that the 7-month-old uprising against President
Bashar Assad is becoming increasingly militarised, activists

The troops stormed the northwestern town of Binnish with
more than 50 vehicles and the sound of explosions and gunfire
could be heard.

The London-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights and
another activist group, the Local Coordination Committees,
said five people were killed.

Rami Abdul-Rahman, who heads the observatory, said six
soldiers and two defectors were also killed today in the
southern village of Harra in the Daraa province.

He said an army force appears to have been ambushed in
Harra`s main square. Villages and towns in the Daraa province,
where the uprising began, have been a hotbed of anti-regime
protests from the beginning.

Binnish is part of Idlib a province, which borders Turkey,
an area where there have been clashes between the military and
army defectors for months. After months of mostly peaceful
protests, the growing involvement of military defectors in
confrontations has raised fears that Syria may be sliding
toward a civil war.

The uprising against Assad`s regime began in mid-March
amid a wave of anti-government protests in the Arab world that
toppled autocrats in Tunisia, Egypt and Libya.

Assad has responded with a fierce crackdown, which the UN
says has left nearly 3,000 people dead.

Syria`s opposition movement has until now focused on
peaceful demonstrations, although recently there have been
reports of protesters taking up arms to defend themselves
against military attacks.


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