20 Syrian soldiers killed and 53 wounded in clashes with army deserters

Twenty Syrian soldiers were killed on Saturday and 53 wounded in clashes with presumed army deserters, activists said.
“Twenty soldiers perished on Saturday and 53 were wounded in clashes between the regular army and presumed deserters in the Baba Amro district of Homs,” said a statement from the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights received in Nicosia.
UN chief Ban Ki-moon on Saturday urged Syria to “immediately” end attacks on civilians a day after dozens of people were killed in a fierce crackdown on dissent and 17 troops died in clashes with suspected army deserters.
Ban’s appeal follows condemnation by the Arab League of the deaths of 36 people on Friday activists said were killed by security forces during mass protests calling for the imposition of a Libya-style no-fly zone on Syria.
A rights watchdog meanwhile said another four civilians were killed on Saturday and that fighting flared again between troops and suspected defectors after clashes overnight killed 17 soldiers.
Ban “appeals for military operations against civilians to stop at once,” said his spokesman Martin Nesirky.
“The violence is unacceptable and must stop immediately,” he added. “The calls of the Syrian people for change must be answered with far-reaching reforms, not repression and violence.”
Friday’s violence, the worst in months, prompted fresh condemnation from the foreign ministers of the 22-strong Arab League, which has been trying to broker an end to the unrest that has rocked Syria since anti-regime protests erupted in March.
An Arab League task force met Syrian President Bashar al-Assad on Wednesday in Damascus and is due to hold talks Sunday in Qatar with top Syrian officials to try to reach “serious results and an exit to the Syrian crisis”, it said.
The Syrian foreign ministry accused the Arab committee of stoking dissent and said that Foreign Minister Walid Muallem will “inform the committee tomorrow of the true situation in Syria”, the state-run news agency SANA reported.
The Arab task force is being influenced by “lies spread by television channels” and should have “helped to calm (the situation) and reach a solution to ensure the security and stability of Syria instead of reviving dissent”.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said security forces killed 36 people on Friday during the protests.
Most of Friday’s killings took place in Homs and Hama provinces, which have been at the forefront of the anti-government protests that have been brutally put down by the security forces at a cost, according to the UN, of more than 3,000 lives, mostly civilians.
The Observatory said more than 100 people were wounded and 500 arrested during Friday’s protests.
On Saturday, another four civilians, including a woman, were killed and several wounded by gunfire from Syrian forces and snipers in Homs province, the Britain-based watchdog said.
Clashes also resumed Saturday in Duwar al-Rayess neighbourhood of Homs, the Observatory said.
Observatory chief Rami Abdel Rahman told AFP that Homs had seen the “highest number of martyrs to date,” accounting for 40 percent of protesters’ deaths over the past seven months.

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