Syria increases crackdown on pro-democracy protests
Syria intensified Thursday a crackdown on pro-democracy protesters by sending more security forces into a restive north-western village, rights activists said, DPA reported.
"A force comprising seven armoured vehicles and 10 jeeps, backed by army tanks, stormed the village of Ibleen in the region of Jabal al-Zawiyah, in search for people wanted by the security services," said Rami Abdel Rahman, the head of the British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.
"Heavy gunfire was heard as the forces stormed the village," he added.
The attack came hours after Syrian security and army forces killed at least 34 people, mostly in the flashpoint central city of Homs.
The United Nations says 2,200 people have been killed since anti-government protests started in Syria in mid-March.
Meanwhile, an activist based in Lebanon told the German Press Agency dpa that some 40 soldiers had defected into the ranks of the opposition.
He said the violence escalated in Homs late Wednesday due to the defections, which took place inside an army unit based in the city.
"Soldiers were refusing to carry out orders, especially to shoot at the injured people," the activist added.
Wissam Tarif, a Syrian national with the international activist group Avaaz, was quoted as saying Thursday that heavy gunfire followed the defections in Homs.
"The defections had sparked a clash between soldiers trying to flee and security forces loyal to the regime," Tarif said.
News cannot be verified from Syria as the government has barred foreign media from the country.
The United Nations has reported more than 2,200 people killed in Syria since February, including more than 350 people after security forces stepped up operations against demonstrators during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.
The Arab League last week publicly called for restraint and an end to the violence in Syria.
Syria on Monday granted the International Committee of the Red Cross access to a detention facility for the first time since unrest broke out in the country, the committee's president said.