Permanent Representative of the Syrian Arab Republic, ambassador Faysal Khabbaz Hamoui (L)
Permanent Representative of the Syrian Arab Republic, ambassador Faysal Khabbaz Hamoui (L) talks with a colleague before a special session of the UN Human Rights Council. The UN Human Rights Council has urged tougher international action against Syria, condemning "gross violations" of human rights following evidence security forces killed and tortured dissidents © Fabrice Coffrini - AFP
Permanent Representative of the Syrian Arab Republic, ambassador Faysal Khabbaz Hamoui (L)
Lucy Christie, AFP
Last updated: December 3, 2011

UN rights council urges tougher action on Syria

Eleven civilians were among 23 people killed in Syria on Saturday, a day after the UN Human Rights Council urged tougher action against Damascus and condemned its "gross violations" of human rights.

The fresh bloodletting came despite the UN resolution which the Syrian foreign ministry dismissed as "unjust" and "politically motivated" by enemies of the embattled regime of President Bashar al-Assad.

In the northwestern city of Idlib, a focal point of anti-government protests raging since March, rebels clashed with loyalist troops near the provincial headquarters leaving 15 people dead, three of them civilians caught in the crossfire, a human rights group said.

An officer was among seven pro-regime soldiers and security service agents killed, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said. Five rebel troops also died in the fighting.

Also in Idlib two protesters were killed and nine others wounded when security forces opened fire on an anti-regime rally in the town of Ariha, the Britain-based Observatory said.

In the southern province of Daraa, cradle of the anti-government protests, one civilian was shot dead and five others wounded on Saturday during a sweep by security forces in the town of Tafas, the Observatory said.

It said three more civilians were shot dead, one by a sniper, in the Sunni district of Bab Amro in the restive central city of Homs, a flashpoint for dissent against Assad's Alawite-led regime.

Two other civilians were killed by security forces in the town of Rastan north of Homs, the watchdog said.

In the town of Maarat Numan in Idlib province, meanwhile, the funeral for a 26-year-old man turned into a massive protest against the regime, the Observatory said.

The unprecedented movement against Assad's regime has been spearheaded by peaceful demonstrators, but in recent months army deserters have formed a rebel Free Syrian Army which has inflicted growing losses on regular forces.

On Thursday, rebel troops killed eight people and wounded at least 13 in an attack on an air force intelligence base in Idlib province that sparked a three-hour gunbattle, the Observatory said.

UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay said more than 4,000 people have been killed in the crackdown over the past eight months and tens of thousands arrested.

At least 12,400 people are reported to have fled the country.

In Geneva on Friday, an emergency meeting of the Human Rights Council passed a resolution "strongly condemning the continued widespread, systematic and gross violations of human rights and fundamental freedoms by the Syrian authorities."

But the Syrian foreign ministry rejected the resolution as "unjust" and said it was "prepared in advance by parties hostile to Syria," in a statement carried by state news agency SANA.

For Damascus, the council's "decisions aim to prolong the crisis and convey a message of support" to the regime's armed opponents.

On Saturday, SANA reported the burials of 12 soldiers and members of the security forces killed by gunmen in a Damascus suburb.

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