Syrian army defectors killed at least 27 soldiers and security forces Thursday in clashes in the southern province of Daraa, activists said, as the unrest in Syria grows more violent and spirals toward civil war.
The clashes would be among the deadliest attacks by rebel troops since the uprising began nine months ago. Citing witnesses on the ground, the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said three separate clashes erupted at dawn.
- UN: Syria death toll over 5,000
- US to Russia: Join UN action on Syria
Iran lawmakers pass Syria free trade bill
There was no immediate claim of responsibility. But the Free Syrian Army, a Turkish-based defector group, has in the past claimed similar attacks across the country.
The UN says more than 5,000 people have been killed since the revolt erupted in March. President Bashar Assad's regime has come under broad international isolation and sanctions because of the violent crackdown on dissent.
Protests in Homs (Photo: AFP/SANA)
The Obama administration is predicting Assad's downfall, with a senior official likening his authoritarian regime to a "dead man walking."
The State Department official, Frederic Hof, told Congress on Wednesday that Assad's repression may allow him to hang on to power but only for a short time.
"Our view is that this regime is the equivalent of dead man walking," said Hof, the State Department's pointman on Syria, which he said was turning into "Pyongyang in the Levant," a reference to the North Korean capital. He said it was difficult to determine how much time Assad has left in power but stressed "I do not see this regime surviving."
On Thursday, Human Rights Watch issued a report alleging that dozens of Syrian military commanders and officials authorized or gave direct orders for widespread killings, torture, and illegal arrests during the wave of anti-government protests.
The report identifies 74 commanders and officials behind the alleged abuse and said that the abuses constitute crimes against humanity and that the UN Security Council should refer Syria to the International Criminal Court (ICC).
Syria claims armed gangs and terrorists are behind the uprising, not protesters seeking more freedoms and reform in one of the most totalitarian regimes in the Middle East.
- Receive Ynetnews updates
directly to your desktop