Thirty eight people were killed by security forces across Syria on Saturday, al-Arabiya reported, citing witnesses. According to reports, three women, two children and three civilians who were tortured were among the victims.
The British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported that Syrian troops backed by 26 tanks stormed the northwestern town of Saraqeb on Saturday in the latest of a series of pushes by regime forces into rebel-held areas, but faced strong resistance from defending army defectors.
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"Large numbers of residents are fleeing the town," said Rami Abdul-Rahman, who heads the Observatory, which has a network of activists inside Syria. "People have been leaving the town for some time but after today's attack the process intensified."
Syrian rebel in Idlib (Photo: AFP)
Earlier on Saturday, al-Arabiya cited National Council members who reported that a Syrian helicopter pilot struck a building housing military security forces, and later defected to Turkey.
National Council member Muhammad Inad told al-Arabiya that the pilot received instructions to shoot at civilians in the outskirts of Aleppo, but refused to carry out the orders, instead striking the security forces building. After running out of ammo, the pilot safely landed in Turkey, Inad noted.
Meanwhile, China said former United Nations chief Kofi Annan will visit China next week to discuss efforts to mediate an end to the crisis in Syria.
Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei says Annan will visit China on Tuesday and Wednesday. Annan is a joint UN-Arab League envoy and will visit China after traveling to Russia.
AP contributed to this report
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