13 Dead amid Defections, Clashes in Northwest Syria

At least 13 people were killed in northwest Syria on Saturday, mostly security personnel, as activists reported clashes and military operations following the defection of dozens of soldiers.

Two civilians were killed in the restive central city of Homs.

"At least nine security officers were killed when their bus was ambushed by gunmen believed to be defectors as they were traveling from Maaret al-Numaan to Khan Sheikhun" in Idlib province, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.

"A civilian was killed ... in Jebel Zawiyah in Idlib where there were clashes between the army and presumed defectors," the Observatory added after reporting the defection of "50 to 60 soldiers" in the area.

Meanwhile, gunfire rattled Saraqeb, also in Idlib, where security forces encircled the town. Soldiers there allegedly opened fire on a vehicle traveling from the central city of Homs to the commercial capital Aleppo.

"The martyrs are the wife of a Syrian captain and a military recruit who was on leave to visit his family in Aleppo," the Observatory said citing a local activist.

A third person and three others were wounded by security forces in a separate incident in Saraqeb, the Observatory added.

In Homs, which is at the forefront of protests against the regime of President Bashar al-Assad, two people were killed by gunfire in Deir Balaa and Souk al-Hal neighborhoods, the watchdog added.

Security forces carried out raids and arrests in the neighborhoods of Bab Sebaa and Bab Dreib while "heavy gunfire was heard in the neighborhood of Baba Amro," it said.

Elsewhere, at least 14 people were arrested in Saqba, near Damascus, where security forces conducted raids searching for wanted men.

And in the coastal city of Banias, "authorities returned the body of a 35-year-old activist who died under torture and had been arrested by military security seven days earlier," the Observatory reported.

Security forces killed 23 people on Friday, the majority in Homs, where anti-regime demonstrators staged mass rallies calling on the Arab League to suspend Syria from the pan-Arab body.

At a meeting in Cairo on Saturday, the Arab League did just that and also called for sanctions and transition talks with the opposition.

Source: Agence France Presse

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