A pair of military defectors died in clashes between rebel forces and the Syrian army Saturday, two of at least 22 people slain by government security forces cracking down on anti-regime elements, an activist group said.
The defectors died in the Damascus province town of Zabadani, where civilians protesting the Bashar al-Assad regime have conducted a general strike, said the Local Coordination Committees of Syria, which represents activists across the country.
Two were members of the Free Syrian Army, the rebel force of army defectors who are taking up arms against the government. The LCC identified one of the soldiers as Lt. Col. Alaa Yahya.
Security forces, including snipers, have been opening fire on houses and private vehicles in the town, said the LCC, which represents a network of activists across Syria.
The nine-month long government crackdown on peaceful protests has resulted in more than 5,000 deaths, the United Nations said. World powers have deplored the activity, and they are looking for ways to rein in violence and contain the threat of civil war, reflected from the emergence of the armed defector force. The Free Syrian Army struck government forces this week and killed 27 of them Thursday in a southern province, anti-government sources said.
Activists say fighting has raged virtually every day and unrest also rippled across the country. Eight people died in Homs province and six each were killed in Idlib and Daraa provinces, said the LCC. Among the deaths were three children and a woman. The group said military and security forces also stormed towns in Hama and Aleppo provinces.
The Syrian government's repression of unrest has triggered criticism as well as from the Arab League, which expelled Syria last month and has been pushing to send monitors into Syria. Sanctions against Syria have been initiated by the United States, the European Union, Turkey and the league.
Russia, a longtime ally of Syria, took a stab at resolving the issue at the United Nations.
Moscow introduced a draft resolution this week that, it says, "considerably strengthens" previous drafts "with regard to the interest in violence, with regard to the need to uphold human rights, with regard to expediting reforms."
The resolution "strongly condemns" violence "coming from all parties, including disproportionate use of force by Syrian authorities." It also would "give a strong message to the Arab League that we encourage them to continue their efforts, and working together with the government of Syria, and to carry out its plans to deploy the monitoring mission in Syria," Russian Ambassador Vitaly Churkin said Thursday at the United Nations.
Itar -Tass, the Russian state news agency, reported that Syria's Vice President Farouk al-Sharaa was to meet with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov on Friday to discuss ways to forge peace. But Interfax, a Russian news agency, later said Lavrov denied reports about the talks and quoted a Syrian official in Moscow as saying he knows nothing about the possible time of the visit.
Meanwhile, the Arab League is trying to persuade Syria to accept a plan for monitors to observe the situation in Syria.
And, Iraq has sent a delegation to Damascus with a peace proposal, Iraqi state media reported Saturday.