Reports from Syria say military defectors killed at least 27 soldiers on December 15 in intensifying bouts of armed resistance against embattled President Bashar al-Assad.
At least a half dozen anti-government protesters also were killed across the country on the fifth day of an opposition-led general strike.
An escalating insurgency pitting growing bands of Syrian Army defectors against their former comrades has left several Assad loyalists dead. The heaviest fighting took place outside the southern city of Dara'a, where an anti-government rebellion first began in March.
Similar clashes were reported both December 13 and 14 in the northern border province of Idlib, as well as the besieged central city of Homs, and in towns surrounding Dara'a. A group calling itself the “Free Syrian Army” has been spearheading the growing number of clashes. Syrian opposition sources put the number of defectors at anywhere from 5,000 to 20,000 soldiers, out of a military force of 400,000 men.