Syrian army defectors killed seven government forces on Tuesday in retaliation an attack that killed 11 civilians, according to activist groups and media reports.
Government forces killed at least two people during a funeral procession in the city of Idlib where thousands of people participated in honoring 11 killed earlier in the day.
Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s regime combed through villages near the Turkish border and open fired “indiscriminately,” the UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said, killing a near dozen. Separate attacks throughout country were reported on the same day.
While the Associated Press reported 28 dead in multiple attacks throughout the region, the Local Coordination Committees of Syria placed the number at 34. The activist group said 20 people died in Idlib, eight in Hama, four in Homs and two in Daraa.
UN human rights chief Navi Pillay said the civilian and defector death toll in Syria have surpassed 5,000 as of Monday, a figure the Syrian ambassador to the UN has rejected.
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The Free Syrian Army military defectors have found refuge in Turkey, in addition to thousands of Syrian refugees who have crossed the border, the AP reported:
“Military defectors known as the Free Syrian Army have found shelter alongside thousands of Syrian refugees on the Turkish side, making use of mountainous terrain, local smuggling networks and support among villagers on the Syrian side to stage cross-border attacks.”
Relations between Turkey and Syria have become strained since Assad’s brutal crackdown against protesters and hit new lows this week when Turkey announced it would reroute trade routes to bypass Syria.
Syria’s state news agency accused Turkey of harboring rebels who orchestrated an attack across the border and preparing a Western-led intervention, according to the Wall Street Journal.
Turkey took a more aggressive stance against Assad in recent weeks and announced Ankara would be ready for possible military intervention if violence continues.
"We hope that a military intervention will never be necessary,” Turkish foreign minister Ahmet Davutoglu said in an interview with television broadcaster Kanal 24. "However, the Syrian regime has to find a way of making peace with its own people to eliminate this option. If the oppression continues, Turkey is ready for any scenario.”
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Turkey joined members of the international community in recent months in condemning the violent crackdowns and imposed sanctions alongside the European Union, US and the Arab League.
"No regime can survive by killing or jailing," Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan said in November. "No one can build a future over the blood of the oppressed."