Middle East

At least 63 killed as Syria violence hits new heights

BEIRUT: Violence in Syria killed at least 63 people on Sunday, nearly half of them troops who died in clashes with rebels, as the bloodshed reached new heights, said the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

At least 16 soldiers were killed in the northern Aleppo province, while one died in an attack on his vehicle in neighboring Idlib province and the rest died in fighting elsewhere in Idlib and in the provinces of Damascus and Deir Ezzor in the east.

The Britain-based watchdog added that a number of soldiers defected after an attack on an artillery battalion in Aleppo province, taking with them a large amount of weapons.

Five civilians were killed elsewhere in the province, including a man and his wife killed in regime shelling in the town of Andan, while there were reports of casualties following the storming of the Neirab refugee camp.

In the city of Homs, three rebels were killed during pre-dawn clashes, as troops bombarded several rebel-held districts in the central city, leaving one civilian dead.

And in the northwestern Latakia province, a rebel died in clashes in the Kurdish Mountain region, the watchdog said.

Thirteen people were killed in Deir Ezzor city, including three rebels shot by sniper fire, and a girl was killed by shelling elsewhere in the province.

Another civilian was killed by regime forces in the southern province of Daraa, the Observatory reported.

In Idlib province, 10 civilians died, including seven members of the same family killed in shelling in the town of Jericho, where clashes took place earlier.

"This is one of the bloodiest weeks in the conflict," the Observatory's Rami Abdel Rahman told AFP.

According to the Observatory's figures, 94 people were killed in Syria on Monday, 62 on Tuesday, 88 on Wednesday, 168 on Thursday, 116 on Friday and 116 on Saturday.

"It's like we are in a war," Abdel Rahman said. "Sometimes when two countries are at war, not even 20 people are killed a day. But now in Syria it has become normal to have 100 killed each day."

While the regime fended off accusations it shot down a Turkish jet in international airspace, one of its own helicopters was taken out by rebels near the Jordanian border, the watchdog said.

In a further blow to the army, rebels captured 11 soldiers during an attack on their base in the regime stronghold of Al-Nabak in Damascus province.

"The morale of the military is very low," Abdel Rahman said, adding the army recently buried 113 soldiers in one region alone.

More than 15,000 people, mostly civilians, have been killed in Syria since the outbreak of the revolt against Assad's rule in March 2011, according to the Observatory.





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