Syrian army defectors have killed 27 government forces in apparently coordinated attacks that were among the deadliest by rebel troops since the uprising began nine months ago. The escalating unrest prompted Canada to advise thousands of its citizens in Syria to leave.
Thursday’s fighting began around daybreak in the southern province of Daraa, where the uprising against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s authoritarian regime began in March.
Syria has seen a sharp escalation in armed clashes recently, raising concerns the country of 22 million is headed toward civil war. The UN raised its death toll for the Syrian uprising substantially this week, saying more 5,000 people have been killed since the revolt began.
“The attacks by army defectors are becoming more coordinated and more deadly. Unfortunately, this will likely lead to a new cycle of escalation by the regime,” said Mohamad Bazzi, a Syria expert at the Council on Foreign Relations.
Defectors from the Free Syrian Army, whose leaders are based in exile in neighboring Turkey, fired a rocket-propelled grenade at a bus carrying policemen into the town of Busra al-Harir on -Thursday, -killing 12 officers, an activist based nearby said.
That set off clashes with an accompanying force of soldiers and the defectors killed 13 of them, said the activist, who would only agree to be identified by his first name, Omar, for fear of retribution.
The fighters then killed two more soldiers in an attack on a checkpoint, he said.
Meanwhile, Canadian Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird said Canadians living in Syria should leave as soon as possible while commercial flights are still available.
The Canadian ministry said there are about 5,000 Canadians in Syria.