Syrian forces kill 4 top activists
AFP NICOSIA SYRIAN security forces killed four leading pro-democracy activists in an ambush in northwestern Idlib province on Thursday, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.
The activists, who had gone into hiding with armed opponents of the Damascus government, were shot dead in the Zawiya hills close to the border with Turkey, the Britain-based watchdog said, without immediately releasing their names.
Elsewhere, one civilian was killed and seven others wounded during shelling of Bab Hud, a neighbourhood of the flashpoint central city of Homs, said the Observatory.
In the eastern protest hub of Deir Ezzor, the body of a young man arrested after being shot during an antiregime protest was found.
Government troops shot and wounded a soldier who tried to defect at a security checkpoint in Dael, in the restive southern province of Daraa, said the watchdog.
The Observatory said security forces killed 13 civilians on Wednesday, adding to a UN estimate of more than 5,400 people who have died since March.
President Bashar al Assad’s regime has waged a fierce crackdown on dissent since protests erupted in mid- March, dispatching troops and militias to protest hotbeds in a bid to silence the opposition.
Meanwhile, in a related development, Alawite intellectuals denounced on Thursday what it said are efforts by the Syrian government and parts of the opposition to link their sect to the regime, warning against the consequences of casting a popular uprising for civil rights in a sectarian light.
The group, which includes writers and journalists, denounced the “government’s efforts to link the Alawite community and religious minorities to the regime by manipulating the security situation and the media.” A statement also criticised “the behaviour and declarations of certain opposition parties to paint our uprising in a sectarian light, which has been and remains a movement for dignity and civil rights.” The Syrian army on Wednesday struck a ceasefire deal with rebels in the town of Zabadani near the capital Damascus, opposition activists said. Tanks started to withdraw from the outskirts of the small town near the border with neighbouring Lebanon after the army and the rebels agreed on the truce, the first such move in the 10- month uprising against the regime of President Bashar al Assad.
Town leaders reached the deal with Deputy Defence Minister Assef Shawkat, Assad’s brother-in-law, activists said. The rebels include many army defectors as well as civilians who picked up arm in recent months after the largely peaceful protests became more violent.
“We do not know how long this ceasefire will last,” activist Ahmadal-Saeed told DPA by phone from Zabadani. “But under the deal, the defectors are to withdraw from the streets while the government troops are to end their siege of the town.” The truce ends five days of fighting over control of the town, where activists said more than 50 soldiers and dozens of rebels were killed.
There was no immediate comment from the Syrian government, which has blamed the violence on armed “terrorist gangs.” Footage posted on YouTube showed a destroyed tank with the voice of a man saying it was attacked by rebel fighters in Zabadani. In another development, British Prime Minister David Cameron said Iran was assisting Syria in its crackdown on protesters by sending weapons to its key ally.”