Escalating violence in Syria leaves many dead

Activists say reprisal ambush in Hama province left eight soldiers dead after government forces killed five civilians.

Syria Homs
Activists said the northern outskirts of Hama has seen the defection of several soldiers from the regular army

At least thirteen people have been killed in Syria’s Hama province after troops fired on a car and provoked a reprisal ambush, activists said, in the latest bloodshed in a nine-month-old uprising against President Bashar al-Assad.

Wednesday was the second day in a row in which an attack by government forces on civilians appears to have brought a quick and deadly act of revenge by anti-government fighters.

The British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said army deserters ambushed a convoy of four military jeeps, killing at least eight soldiers, in response to the army attack on a car, which left five people dead.

The vehicle “exploded in a ball of fire”, Rami Abdul-Rahman, the director of the Syrian Observatory, said.

Hours later, he said, gunmen ambushed a convoy of four military jeeps passing through the nearby village of al-Asharna on the northern outskirts of the city of Hama, spraying it with bullets.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the ambush, but the Free Syrian Army, a Turkish-based defector group, has in the past claimed similar attacks across the country.

“The area where the attack took place has seen the defection of several soldiers from the regular army,” Abdul-Rahman told Al Jazeera.

Abdul-Rahman added that “three [army] defectors were wounded” in the village of Lujat during clashes with regular troops in the southern province of Deraa.

“Heavy gunfire was heard in the town of Hirak”, which came under assault by military forces backed by tanks and troop carriers, he added.

Meanwhile, huge crowds from the province of Homs rallied in al-Haderah street 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.

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,” Bakr Hujairi of the municipality of Aarsal, said.

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.

Navi Pillay, the UN human rights chief, announced the latest death toll figure in a private briefing to the Security Council -where Russia and China blocked a resolution condemning Assad in October.

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

Bashar al-Jaafari, the Syrian ambassador to the UN, said Pillay was neither objective nor fair.

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 refuses to sign the agreement on allowing human rights observers into the country, Mohammed Zaidi, an adviser to Arab League chief Nabil al-Araby, said.

Source: Al Jazeera, News Agencies