News / Middle East

Security Forces, Deserters Clash in Syria

Syrian security forces have clashed with suspected army deserters on a road in northwestern Syria.

Rights activists say the fighting Tuesday began when the deserters attacked a military convoy at a roadblock outside a town near the Turkish border.

French news agency AFP reports that seven security agents were killed.

The government of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has blamed much of the deadly violence in Syria on "armed gunmen" and "terrorists."

Also Tuesday, a top human rights group accused Syria of using hospitals as a tool to crush dissent.

Amnesty International said patients in four government-run hospitals have been tortured, and that medical workers suspected of treating protesters have been targeted by security forces.

The group urged Syria's government to direct hospitals to accept and treat all patients without delay.

In other news, China urged Syria to carry out its reform promises and respond to the demands of its people. China's Foreign Ministry said China wants all sides to refrain from violence and resolve the crisis peacefully.

A Chinese envoy is due to visit Syria on Wednesday. China and Russia vetoed a United Nations Security Council draft resolution earlier this month that would have condemned Syria for its crackdown on civilian protesters.

Syria has used military force to crush months of opposition protests calling for the ouster of President Assad. The crackdown has led to international condemnation of Syria that has included a European Union decision to impose sanctions on Syria's biggest state bank.

The United Nations says the death toll from seven months of anti-government protests in Syria has topped 3,000.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP and Reuters.

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