Syrian Army Defectors Ambush Soldiers

December 15, 2011

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, theSyrian 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.

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