Syria Defectors Kill 8 Soldiers to Avenge 5 Civilian Deaths, Group Says

At least eight Syrian soldiers died in an ambush by army defectors near Hama in retaliation for the killing of five civilians today, the U.K.-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said. Al Jazeera and Al Arabiya reported 30 people were killed by security forces today.

At least 31 people died yesterday in government attacks, including 19 in the northern province of Idlib near the border with Turkey, the group said. Deaths were also reported in the central city of Homs, Hama and in the southern area of Daraa, where the uprising against President Bashar al-Assad started nine months ago. The Local Coordination Committees, another activist group, put yesterday’s death toll at 37.

Even as pressure on his government grows, Assad has pressed on with his crackdown against dissenters, unleashing security forces and the army on cities in an effort to crush an uprising inspired by similar revolts across the Arab world.

United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay told the 15-member UN Security Council in New York this week that the situation in Syria was “intolerable” and said “gross violations” committed by Assad’s security forces should be referred to the International Criminal Court. She said the number of deaths probably exceeds 5,000.

Efforts by the U.S. and Europe to respond to Assad’s actions against protesters have been repeatedly blocked by Russia and China at the UN. The Arab League on Dec. 3 ordered a freeze on the assets of 19 Syrian officials, a ban on their travel and a reduction in flights to Syria because the government refused to admit international monitors and release political prisoners.

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