Syria violence kills 11 soldiers, 10 civilians

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BEIRUT (AP) -- Security forces conducting raids on homes and pro-regime snipers on rooftops killed at least ten civilians, including a teenager, most of them in the central city of Homs on Sunday. Fierce clashes in the south between government troops and military defectors left 11 soldiers dead, activists said.

The British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said the soldiers died in intense fighting in the town of Basr al-Harir in southern Daraa province. More than 20 troops were wounded.

In the violence in Homs, a 15-year-old boy was among seven civilians killed, the Observatory said.

The Local Coordination Committees activist network and other activists confirmed the killings of civilians. In the Damascus suburb of Zabadani, two people were killed during raids that followed clashes with defectors, and in the eastern Deir el-Zour province, a 19-year-old was also killed during raids in pursuit of activists, the activists said.

The reports could not be independently confirmed as Syria has barred most foreign journalists from the country and tightly restricts the local media.

In Cairo, foreign ministers from the Arab League were meeting to discuss the progress of their observers mission in Syria. The monitors are supposed to be ensuring Syrian compliance with a plan to end the government's crackdown on dissent. But opposition activists say that up to 450 have been killed by regime forces since observers began work in Syria 12 days ago.

The monitoring mission was expected to issue its first findings at the meeting in Cairo.

While many of the anti-government protests sweeping the country since March remain peaceful, the Syrian uprising as a whole has become more violent in recent months as frustrated demonstrators take up arms to protect themselves from the steady military assault. An increasing number of army defectors also have launched attacks, killing soldiers and security forces.

The regime's crackdown has led to broad worldwide condemnation and sanctions, weakened the economy and left President Bashar Assad an international pariah just as he was trying to open up his country and modernize the economy.

The government says that the turmoil in Syria is not an uprising but the work of terrorists and foreign-backed armed gangs.

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