DAMASCUS: Security forces shot dead a woman and beat up Syria's best-known political cartoonist on Thursday, a day after violence in which 11 civilians and eight soldiers were killed, activists said.

The woman was shot dead during a military operation in a village near the eastern oil hub of Deir Ezzor, 460 kilometres northeast of Damascus, said the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

Activists also said masked security forces personnel and pro-regime shabiha militiamen grabbed cartoonist Ali Ferzat at the capital's Ummayad square while he was returning home by car at 4.30am.

“The attackers stole the contents of his briefcase, including his drawings and other personal belongings,” said the Local Coordination Committees (LCC), which groups activists on the ground.

“He was beaten hard, notably on his hands. Passers-by found him on the road to the airport and he was taken to hospital,” the LCC's Omar Idlbi said in a statement.

Since the start of an anti-regime uprising in March, Ferzat, one of the Arab world's most renowned cartoonists, has published cartoons critical of the brutal crackdown on protesters.

“The Syrian security forces are fully responsible for what happens to Ali Ferzat, especially as he had recently undergone a spinal operation,” Idlbi added.

The Observatory said “an armed gang kidnapped and assaulted Ali Ferzat. He has bruises on the face and hands. They (the gunmen) then threw him out of a car on the road to the airport.”

A friend who visited Ferzat in hospital said that two fingers of his left hand were broken, his right arm was fractured, the left eye badly bruised and blood oozed from his chest.—AFP