Syrian troops battled army defectors today in clashes that left several military vehicles in flames. The fighting and other violence around the nation killed at least 5 people, activists said.
For the first time protest against President Bashar Assad's regime spilled across the border into Jordan, where about a dozen Syrians attacked their embassy in the capital, Amman, wounding at least 2 diplomats and 4 other consulate employees.
The 9 month-old uprising against Syria's authoritarian President Bashar Assad has grown increasingly violent in recent months as once-peaceful protesters take up arms and rebel soldiers joining the uprising fight back against the army. The UN says more than 4,000 people have been killed since March.
Opposition activists called for a general strike starting today to add to the pressure on the government to stop its bloody crackdown. Assad has refused to buckle under Arab and international pressure to step down and has shown no signs of easing his crackdown, which has included assaults by the military on unarmed protesters.
Now, fighting between loyalist forces and defectors calling themselves the Free Syrian Army threatens to push the confrontation into civil war.
In one of today's clashes, which took place before dawn in the north-western town of Kfar Takharim, 2 of the military's armoured vehicles were set ablaze, said the British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. 3 other vehicles were burned in another clash near the southern village of Busra al-Harir, the group said. Similar battles took place in several other parts of the south, said the Observatory and another activist group called the Local Co-ordination Committees.
The Observatory said 2 people were killed in the clash with defectors in Kfar Takharim. 2 other people who went missing days ago were tortured to death in the central province of Homs, and one person was shot at a checkpoint in the southern province of Daraa, the group said.
The LCC put today's death toll at 9.
In Jordan, the Syrian Embassy said a group of protesters linked to the unrest at home entered the mission claiming they had paperwork to finish and attacked the consul, another diplomat, a security guard and several other staff members. An Embassy statement said its guards arrested 1 of the attackers, identified as Syrian refugee Ahmed al-Shureiqi. It said Jordanian police arrested 8 others, all Syrians allegedly involved in the attack.
The Syrian opposition called for the general strike, saying it will go on until the regime pulls the army out of cities and releases detainees. The LCC said security forces were breaking into shops closed for the strike in an attempt to force them to open.