Syrian Army Defectors Ambush Soldiers


Beirut , Lebanon – Syrian military defectors killed at least eight members of the security forces on Wednesday in an ambush near the city of Hama, in central Syria, according to opposition groups.

The attack was in retaliation for the killing of five people earlier Wednesday by the security forces, who hit their car with a tank as it drove through the village of Khattab, near Hama, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said in a statement. An opposition activist said that the men in the car were believed to be armed fighters.

In response, the defectors attacked four military vehicles at an intersection near the village of Al Asharneh, on the outskirts of Hama, said the human rights group, which is based in London. A resident of Hama said that the attack took place on a supply route linking Hama to troops fighting military defectors in the northern province of Idlib, near the Turkish border.

The antigovernment fighters attacked the convoy with rocket-propelled grenades and gunfire, killing eight soldiers, before disappearing, said an opposition activist who spoke on the condition of anonymity for fear of reprisal.

Rami Abdul-Rahman, the director of the human rights group, said that clashes between deserters and the military had increased in recent weeks on the outskirts of Hama and Homs, as well as in the southern province of Dara’a and in Idlib.

It was the second attack this week carried out by army defectors in retaliation for the killing of civilians, the group said. On Tuesday, an armed opposition group killed seven soldiers in an attack on their truck in Idlib, in response to the killing of 11 civilians earlier in the day.

Activists and residents of Hama also said that security forces raided the city to break up a three-day strike called by the opposition under the banner “Strike for Dignity.” The Local Coordination Committees, an opposition group, said that troops fired machine guns and ransacked and burned shops that were closed for the strike.

Members of the group said that snipers were positioned on the rooftops of several buildings and that several neighborhoods were under siege. They said at least 11 people died in the attack on the city, the first since a military assault in August there crushed sprawling protests and killed at least several hundred people.

Clashes were also reported in Homs, in central Syria, between defectors and soldiers loyal to the government of President Bashar al-Assad. At least 10 people were killed.

A video posted on YouTube, which the activist group Avaaz said was shot in the neighborhood of Bayada on Wednesday, shows a man lying dead on a street after snipers shot him as he rode his bicycle. His body rested near heaps of uncollected trash bags. Three men tried to retrieve the body, but they, too, came under sniper fire and were wounded, Avaaz said.

As the violence in Syria continued to increase, the United Nations secretary general, Ban Ki-moon, on Wednesday called on other countries to intervene to help end the bloodshed.

“This cannot go on,” Mr. Ban told reporters in New York. “In the name of humanity, it is time for the international community to act.”

Diplomats have been bickering in the United Nations Security Council, as Western nations have been seeking stronger actions against the Syrian government for its crackdown on antigovernment activists and protesters.

The United Nations Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay, said Monday that the death toll had surpassed 5,000 people since the uprising against Mr. Assad broke out in March. The estimate includes civilians as well as army defectors and soldiers who were shot for refusing to shoot at protesters.

Ms. Pillay, who briefed the Security Council in a private session on the latest developments in Syria, told reporters afterward that she had recommended that the council refer the Syrian government to the International Criminal Court, which could consider bringing charges against the government for committing crimes against humanity, including torture, rape and the killing of civilians.

“The widespread and systematic nature of the killings, the detentions and the acts of torture — I felt that these acts constituted crimes against humanity,” Ms. Pillay told reporters. “Inaction by the international community will embolden Syrian authorities, and ensure perpetrators go unpunished.”

Her comments appeared to have deepened divisions between Western countries and Russia and China over how to respond to Mr. Assad’s crackdown.

The Arab League is planning an emergency meeting on Saturday in Cairo for its 22-member countries to discuss a proposal submitted by Syria to allow Arab military and civilian observers into the country in return for canceling economic sanctions that the Arab League imposed last month.