Beirut, Dec 15: Syrian army defectors killed at least 27 soldiers and security forces today in clashes in the southern province of Daraa, activists said, as the unrest in Syria grows more violent and spirals toward civil war.
If confirmed, the clashes would be among the deadliest attacks by rebel troops since the uprising began nine months ago. Citing witnesses on the ground, the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said three separate clashes erupted at dawn.
There was no immediate claim of responsibility. But the Free Syrian Army, a Turkish-based defector group, has in the past claimed similar attacks across the country.
The UN says more than 5,000 people have been killed since the revolt erupted in March. President Bashar Assad's regime has come under broad international isolation and sanctions because of the violent crackdown on dissent.
The Obama administration is predicting Assad's downfall, with a senior official likening his authoritarian regime to a “dead man walking.”
The State Department official, Frederic Hof, told Congress on Wednesday that Assad's repression may allow him to hang on to power but only for a short time.
“Our view is that this regime is the equivalent of dead man walking,” said Hof, the State Department's pointman on Syria, which he said was turning into “Pyongyang in the Levant,” a reference to the North Korean capital.
He said it was difficult to determine how much time Assad has left in power but stressed, “I do not see this regime surviving.”
In an apparent bid to promote defections, Hof warned Syrian troops and Assad's top aides that Assad may be setting them up for possible war crimes or criminal charges by claiming in an interview with ABC News last week that the army was not his to command.