Violent clashes between Syrian government troops and rebel soldiers in Syria's northern Idlib Province Saturday have left a large number of casualties, at least 23 according to activists.
Witnesses say the battles have been growing in intensity in recent days, as more soldiers defect from regular army units.
Meanwhile, in Istanbul, U.S. Vice President Joe Biden added his voice to an international chorus demanding that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad step down.
The fighting comes one day after the United Nations Human Rights Council voted to condemn Syria for “gross” and “systematic violations of human rights” for its bloody crackdown on a nine-month old popular uprising.
The U.N. body also agreed to appoint a special investigator to probe human rights abuses in Syria that could be linked to the government's cracdown on dissent.
On Saturday, Syria's state-run media accused the U.N. of ignoring documents provided by the government that it said clarified facts and the Syrian Foreign Ministry has accused the U.N. Human Rights Council of issuing a "politicized" resolution.
In the Damascus suburb of Basrat al-Sham, a crowd of several thousand mourners chanted slogans against the regime as they buried a man allegedly shot during protests Friday. Anti government demonstrations reportedly took place in at least several dozen cities, despite the ongoing government crackdown.
In Istanbul,Turkey, visiting U.S. Vice President Joe Biden praised Syria's neighbor Turkey for taking steps to protect the Syrian people against the wave of government repression. He also joined with Turkish and other world leaders in calling for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to step down.
"Regional issues from the brutal repression in Syria where Turkey, where we stand with Turkey and a growing chorus of nations in calling for President Assad to step aside. And I welcome the Human Rights Council's condemnation yesterday of the regime's violence."
Khattar Abou Diab, who teaches political science at the University of Paris, notes that one of the chief difficulties in organizing U.S., U.N. and European efforts to help the Syrian people has been the opposition of Russia and several other world powers.
He says that Russia is trying to give the impression that it is still a power on the world stage, and also wants to defend its commercial and strategic interests in Syria against the West, which it believes misled it over Libya.
Abou Diab adds that Iran and its allies are also playing a key role in helping the Syrian regime to fight its own people. He stresses that the Syrian opposition has been accusing the Iranian Revolutionary Guard, Lebanon's Hezbollah, and Iraq's Muqtada al-Sadr militia of sending men to fight in Syria on the side of the government.