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Middle East
Syrian soldiers 'killed by army defectors'
Dawn clashes in southern province of Deraa leave at least 27 Syrian soldiers dead, according to opposition activists.
Last Modified: 15 Dec 2011 20:24
Pro-Bashar protests were held on Wednesday, in which they denounced the Arab League and other "instigators" [EPA]

Syrian army deserters killed at least 27 soldiers and security personnel in a series of clashes in the southern province of Deraa at dawn, according to activists.

The clashes occurred early on Thursday at two locations in the city of Deraa itself, as well as a checkpoint at a crossroads outside the city, the UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported.

Meanwhile the US-based rights group, Human Rights Watch, released a report naming 74 commanders and military and intelligence officials as having allegedly "ordered, authorised, or condoned widespread killings, torture, and unlawful arrests" during the country's nine-month uprising.

At the same time, Iraq will send a delegation to Syria to try to convince Damascus to implement an Baghdad initiative to end months of bloody conflict, Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki said on Thursday.

"When I arrive in Baghdad, I will hold a meeting to prepare the plans to send a delegation to Syria in order to implement the Iraqi initiative," Maliki said as he flew back to Iraq from Washington.

"America and Europe are afraid of the phase after (Syrian President) Bashar al-Assad. That is why they understand the initiative" from Iraq, Maliki said.

On Wednesday, at least 25 people, including eight soldiers, were killed across Syria. Army defectors gunned down the soldiers in a retaliatory ambush after government troops destroyed a civilian car, activists said.

Meanwhile, huge crowds rallied in Homs on Wednesday to express their rejection of the Arab League decisions against Syria, and any attempt at foreign interference in its internal affairs, Syria's official news agency, SANA reported.

According to SANA, "The crowds burned an Israeli flag with logos of some of the instigative satellite channels which are participating in shedding the Syrian blood through fabricating news and falsifying facts about what is really taking place in Syria."

Violence on Lebanese border

In other parts of Syria, the Local Co-ordination Committees (LCC) activist network reported that at least 10 people were killed in the central city of Homs, three in the northeastern province of Idlib, two in the capital Damascus, two in Deir al-Zor, two in Deraa, one in the northeastern province of Qamishli, one in the northern city of al-Raqqa and one in the town of Zabadany near Damascus.

Spotlight
In-depth coverage of escalating violence across Syria

On the borders with neighbouring Lebanon, two people were wounded when a Syrian military patrol entered Lebanese territory and opened fire on a border town, a local official said.

"Syrian troops entered Lebanese territory today and opened fire on the village of Khirbat Daoud in Aarsal," said Bakr Hujairi of the municipality of Aarsal.

In a separate development, a state-sponsored newspaper reported on Wednesday that Syria's ambassador to the US, Imad Mustafa, had been named envoy to China.

Al-Watan newspaper said that Assad had issued a decree appointing Mustafa, who was recalled in October in response to the US administration's withdrawal of US ambassador Robert Ford from Damascus over security concerns.

Ford returned to Syria last week.

'Unconscionable' silence

On Tuesday, the UN said it estimated that more than 5,000 people were killed across the country since March in the government's crackdown on dissent, although Syria criticised the figure as neither objective nor fair.

  Al Jazeera reports on the questions looming around the Syrian National Council opposition bloc

The briefing heightened divisions in the 15-nation council over how to respond to the Syrian violence.

Washington has denounced the Security Council's silence on Syria as "unconscionable."

But Moscow said that the West is pursuing an agenda of "regime change" by putting pressure on Syria's government but not on armed groups in the troubled country.

The Arab League has called an emergency meeting of the 22-member bloc's foreign ministers in Cairo on Saturday to respond to Syria's proposal to admit observers in exchange for an end to regional sanctions.

The meeting would seek recommendations for the ministers on steps to take if Damascus refused to agree to a proposal to allow human rights observers into the country, Mohammed Zaidi, an adviser to Arab League chief Nabil al-Araby, said.

Source:
Al Jazeera and agencies
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