38 killed in Syria violence: monitors

AFP , Thursday 5 Apr 2012

Despite arrival of UN team to Damascus, at least 38 people die on Thursday, monitors report

At least 38 people, half of them civilians, were killed in violence across Syria on Thursday, monitors said, with fierce fighting between regime troops and insurgents in the rebel provinces of Idlib and Homs.

The violence came despite the arrival in Damascus of a UN team dispatched by international peace envoy Kofi Annan to pave the way for a possible observer mission in Syria.

In central Homs province, army shelling of the town of Rastan killed four civilians, including two children, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.

In Homs city itself, eight regime forces were killed and dozens wounded in fighting with rebel forces on the outskirts of the Deir Baalaba neighbourhood, the Britain-based monitoring group said.

Four civilians were also killed in Homs city, including three stabbed by Shabiha pro-regime militia, the Observatory added.

Separately, regime troops backed by tanks stormed Douma, near Damascus, at dawn amid heavy gunfire and shelling.

Clashes between soldiers and rebel forces were reported in various parts of Douma, some 13 kilometres (seven miles) northeast of the capital, with a civilian killed by sniper fire, the Observatory said.

Plumes of smoke could be seen near the city's main mosque as troop reinforcements were sent in.

Two young men were killed in Kfar Sousa, a neighbourhood of Damascus early on Thursday when security forces opened fire on their car.

In the embattled northwestern province of Idlib, meanwhile, at least eight civilians were killed, along with six regime forces, the Observatory said.

Clashes were also reported in several towns in nearby Aleppo province, including Andan and Hritan, where messages on loudspeakers urged regime troops to defect and join the opposition.

Five soldiers were killed in two separate attacks there and in southern Daraa, cradle of the revolt that broke out in March last year against President Bashar al-Assad's regime, the Observatory said.

The unrest in Syria has left more than 9,000 people dead since mid-March last year, according to UN figures.

The revolt against the regime began as a popular uprising but has transformed into an insurgency that many fear will lead to a full-blown civil war.

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