DAMASCUS: Twenty-five soldiers were among 36 people killed in clashes in Syria, a rights group said on Friday, as the army meets mounting armed resistance to a crackdown the UN said has killed more than 3,000 people.
At least 187 children were among the civilians killed in the security forces' relentless clampdown on the unprecedented protests against President Bashar al-Assad's regime that erupted in mid-March, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay said.
“More than 100 people have been reported killed in the last 10 days alone,” she said.
Reporting Thursday's troop losses at the hands of armed opponents of Assad's regime, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights expressed “surprise at the silence of the Syrian authorities on the killings of dozens of regular army soldiers in the past few days.”
The Britain-based watchdog said that 10 civilians were killed in the northwestern town of Banash near the Turkish border, one of them a child.
But it said that 15 soldiers, some of them officers, were also killed in the Idlib province town.
A civilian was killed in the flashpoint central city of Homs, but a security service agent was killed in the nearby town of Quseir and nine troops were killed in Daraa, another flashpoint city south of Damascus, it added.
The Observatory said the deadly clashes in both Banash and Daraa appeared to have pitted regular army troops against deserters who had mutinied rather than obey orders to shoot at civilian protesters.
Pro-democracy activists in Syria called for nationwide demonstrations on Friday in support of the “free soldiers.”
Western governments have issued increasingly shrill warnings that unless the Assad regime heeds popular demands for reform, the so far peaceful protest movement risks feeling it has little alternative but to turn to violence.
The UN human rights chief called on the international community to do more to protect Syrian civilians.
The heavy death toll arose from the “sniping from rooftops and indiscriminate use of force against peaceful protesters,” noted Pillay.
“The government of Syria has manifestly failed to protect its population,” Pillay said.
“The onus is on all members of the international community to take protective action in a collective and decisive manner, before the continual ruthless repression and killings drive the country into a full-blown civil war,” she added.
“The international community must speak with one voice and act to protect the Syrian people,” she said.
A draft resolution put to a vote by European governments at the UN Security Council earlier this month that warned of “targeted measures,” although not sanctions, against the Syrian regime if it continued its crackdown was vetoed by China and Russia.
On Thursday, the European Union broadened its own sanctions against Damascus.
EU foreign policy Chief Catherine Ashton said the decision was a “direct consequence of the appalling and brutal campaign the Syrian regime is waging against its own people.”