BEIRUT -- Rebel forces killed nearly 80 Syrian soldiers in the past few days and activists claimed Tuesday the toll was more than 100 in what appeared to be some of the heaviest losses for government troops since the uprising began 15 months ago.
The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, which has a network of sources on the ground, said 113 soldiers have been killed in clashes with rebel forces across the country since Friday. The figure was impossible to confirm independently, but the Syrian government confirmed nearly 80 soldiers had been killed over the past three days.
"The regime is suffering major losses," said Rami Abdul-Rahman, head of the Observatory.
Syria's uprising began with mostly peaceful protests, but a brutal government crackdown with tanks, machine guns and snipers led many in the opposition to take up arms. Now, the conflict has morphed into an armed insurgency.
The violence has grown increasingly chaotic in recent months, and it is difficult to assign blame for much of the bloodshed as the country spirals toward civil war. The government restricts journalists from moving freely, making it nearly impossible to independently verify accounts from either side.
Videos and photographs posted online by activists showed destroyed tanks and armored personnel carriers over the past several days. In a video posted online Saturday and said to be taken the Damascus suburb of Douma, an APC was torn to pieces and at least two charred bodies of soldiers were seen near the vehicle.
Government spokesman Jihad Makdissi said last week that rebels are now using sophisticated anti-tank missiles.
Syria's state-run news agency, SANA, says nearly 80 soldiers were killed over the past three days. It said the dead include a brigadier general who was shot dead while on his way to work in the restive northern province of Idlib.
Activists say that more than 13,000 people have been killed since the crisis in Syria began in March last year.
The State Department says international envoy to Syria Kofi Annan will be going to Washington on Friday to meet with U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton.
Annan is scheduled to brief an open meeting of the U.N. General Assembly on Syria on Thursday and then attend a closed Security Council meeting to discuss the latest developments. Annan has been pushing a six-point plan to ease Syria's crisis calling for stopping killings and launching an inclusive political process.
A cease-fire never took hold and the violence has continued despite the presence of U.N. observers in the country.
U.S. ambassador to the U.N. Susan Rice tweets:
|@ AmbassadorRice : #Syria regime turned artillery, tanks and helicopters on its own men & women. It unleashed knife-wielding shabiha gangs on its own children.|
Russia says international envoy Kofi Annan will visit Moscow on Monday to discuss the ongoing crisis in Syria. Russia also called for an inquiry into an alleged massacre that took place in the village of Tramseh on Thursday. "We have no doubt that this wrongdoing serves the interests of those powers that are not seeking peace but persistently seek to sow the seeds of interconfessional and civilian conflict on Syrian soil," Russia's foreign ministry said in a statement, according to Reuters. Moscow did not apportion blame for the killings.
Read more on Reuters.com.
The Associated Press obtained a video that purports to show the aftermath of an alleged massacre in the village of Tramseh, near Hama.
How do Syria's fighters get their arms? An overview put together by Reuters explains that there are three gateways to the country -- Lebanon, Turkey, and Iraq.
Syrian rebels are smuggling small arms into Syria through a network of land and sea routes involving cargo ships and trucks moving through Turkey, Lebanon and Iraq, maritime intelligence and Free Syrian Army (FSA) officers say. Western and regional powers deny any suggestion they are involved in gun running. Their interest in the sensitive border region lies rather in screening to ensure powerful weapons such as surface to air missiles do not find their way to Islamist or other militants.
Read the full report here.
This citizen journalism image made from video provided by Shaam News Network SNN, purports to show a man mourning a victim killed by violence that, according to anti-regime activists, was carried out by government forces in Tremseh, Syria about 15 kilometers (nine miles) northwest of the central city of Hama, Thursday, July 12, 2012. (AP Photo/Shaam News Network, SNN)
According to the Hama Revolutionary Council, a Syrian opposition group, more than 220 people have been killed in a new alleged massacre in Taramseh. Earlier reports said more than 100 people were killed. "More than 220 people fell today in Taramseh," the Council said in a statement. "They died from bombardment by tanks and helicopters, artillery shelling and summary executions."
Fadi Sameh, an opposition activist from Taramseh, told Reuters he had left the town before the reported massacre but was in touch with residents. "It appears that Alawite militiamen from surrounding villages descended on Taramseh after its rebel defenders pulled out, and started killing the people. Whole houses have been destroyed and burned from the shelling," Sameh claimed.
Read more on Reuters.com.
Syrian activist Rami Jarrah tweets that Syrian State TV has confirmed deaths in Tremseh. "Terrorists" is often the term used by the Syrian regime for opposition forces.
|@ AlexanderPageSY : Syrian State TV: clashes between security apparatus & terrorists in #Tremseh of #Hama leaves large numbers of terrorists killed #Syria|
|@ Reuters : UPDATE: DEATH TOLL IN SYRIAN FORCES' ATTACK ON VILLAGE IN SYRIA'S HAMA REGION IS MORE THAN 200, MOSTLY CIVILIANS - OPPOSITION ACTIVISTS|