Dozens of people have been reported killed across Syria, a day after the Arab League announced it was encouraging dialogue between Bashar al-Assad’s government and the opposition.
The Local Co-ordination Committees (LCC), an activists’ network, said 24 people were killed on Monday in Homs, which has been one of the centres of the protests against President Assad’s 11-year rule.
The group said troops also killed four civilians in Idlib province in the northwest, three in the city of Hama, and one in Deraa.
Separately, the UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR) reported the deaths of 11 soldiers, four of them in a bombing.
“Gunmen suspected of being army defectors blew up a bomb by remote control as an army vehicle passed by Ehssem in the countryside of the [northwestern province of Idlib], killing an officer and three soldiers, and wounding others,” Rami Abdel Rahman, the SOHR director, told the AFP news agency.
Earlier, SOHR reported that seven soldiers were killed in clashes with assailants suspected of being army defectors in Homs province.
Syrian authorities say “armed terrorist groups” are operating in Homs, killing civilians and prominent figures. Foreign reporters are largely banned from Syria, making independent confirmation of reports difficult.
Elsewhere, the LCC said it had documented the arrests of 25 doctors and pharmacists from private clinics and hospitals in the past few weeks.
The group said 250 doctors and pharmacists have been arrested since the start of the uprising.
The accusation that authorities are targeting doctors and raiding hospitals in search of wounded protesters has been made before by leading international human rights groups.
Last month, US-based Human Rights Watch said Syrian security forces “forcibly removed” patients from a hospital and prevented doctors from reaching the wounded during a military siege in Homs.
Monday’s developments follow the Arab League’s announcement a day earlier that it planned to bring together Syria’s government and opposition groups to seek ways to end the violence.
“We will call all of the parties of the opposition and government to hold a dialogue within 15 days,” Nabil el-Araby, the group’s secretary-general, said after an emergency meeting of Arab foreign ministers in the Egyptian capital on Sunday.
But Youssef Ahmad, Syria’s ambassador to the Arab League, aired his country’s reservation to the Arab League’s resolution, the Syrian state news agency, SANA, reported.
Ahmad said his country will not hold talks in Cairo, affirming that Syria is an independent and sovereign country led by a legitimate authority, and that “any national dialogue can only be held in Syria”.