News Column

At Least 20 Syrian Soldiers Killed as More Civilians Flee

Nov 10 2012 11:37AM

Beirut (dpa) - At least 20 government soldiers were killed Saturday in two back-to-back car bombings targeting an army camp in southern Syria, according to an opposition group - in the latest assault by rebels against military facilities in the war-torn country.

The blasts occurred in the province of Daraa, the cradle of a popular uprising that erupted against the rule of President Bashar al-Assad in March last year, added the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

State news agency SANA confirmed the attack which it called a "terrorist explosion", saying it had caused unspecified casualties and major damage.

A third explosion later hit another military outpost in Daraa, causing no casualties, the Observatory said.

The opposition rebels have infiltrated in the past two months key areas in the capital Damascus, the northern western provinces and Daraa, showing they are now better equipped than before, according to activists.

Explosions targeting state security institutions have recently become frequent in and outside the capital Damascus, they added.

Government troops and insurgents also Saturday fought fierce battles near the Syrian-Turkish border, prompting more civilians to flee into Turkey.

Heavy shelling and air raids were reported in the restive Syrian town of Maaret al-Noumaan and other rebel-held areas in the northern province of Idlib.

"Some 20,000 have fled areas near the Syrian-Turkish border in the past 24 hours," said Rami Abdel Rahman, the head of the opposition Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

"Some of them managed to enter the Turkish territories. Others sought refuge in Kurdish areas inside Syria, which are fairly calmer," he told dpa.

A total of 50 people were killed across Syria on Saturday, including eight civilians near Damascus, reported the Observatory.

The opposition says that more than 37,000 people have been killed in Syria since the start of the uprising. The figure could not be independently verified.

Meanwhile, Lebanese Prime Minister Nagib Mikati has approached several countries to help Lebanon cope with an increase in the number of Syrian refugees, a government official told dpa on condition of anonymity.

The Lebanese Social Affairs Ministry expects the number of Syrians registered as refugees in the country to rise from 150,000 to 200,000 soon, reported the Lebanese newspaper An Nahar,

Since Thursday, 9,000 Syrians have crossed into Turkey, while 1,000 each arrived in Lebanon and Jordan, said the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees on Friday.

In Qatar, splintered Syrian opposition groups started crucial talks on a United States-backed plan for the formation of an inclusive leadership body.

The Syrian National Council (SNC), the main opposition bloc which has been offered 15 seats out of a total of 50 on the proposed body, is concerned that the new initiative will weaken its status, according to opposition sources.

Washington has criticized the SNC for not being representative of the whole spectrum of the opposition seeking to oust al-Assad's regime.

Source: Copyright 2012 dpa Deutsche Presse-Agentur GmbH

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