Fresh clashes broke out across Syria, a day after the United Nations Security Council called for the government and opponents to enact a peace plan proposed by a U.N. envoy.
Opposition and rights groups Thursday said the latest wave of violence had killed at least 60 people, more than half of them civilians.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights told VOA a bus carrying 10 people was attacked in Idlib province by unidentified assailants. Activists say at least five women and children were killed. A separate group, the opposition Local Coordination Committees of Syria (LOC) said the bus had been heading for a refugee camp across the border in Syria. Syria's state-run news agency SANA blames armed terrorists for the incident.
The groups also blamed the Syrian government for shelling and clashes with rebels in Hama Thursday and a deadly ambush by opposition forces in the southern province, Daraa. Activists also reported government troops killing three people in the Homs' district town of Qusair.
They said other fatalities included Syrian soldiers who had refused to fire on civilians.
Speaking in Malaysia Thursday, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said a Security Council statement has sent a "clear" message to the Syrian government and signals a "turning point" in the international community's response to the crisis.
"All the violence must stop," said Ban. "And, there should be a political negotiation, inclusive political negotiation for the resolution of this issue, in a way which can meet the aspiration of the Syrian people and also humanitarian access should be established.''
The Security Council approved the so-called "presidential statement" Wednesday threatening Syria with unspecified "further steps" if international envoy Kofi Annan's six-point peace proposal is rejected.
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Activists welcomed the action. VOA spoke with a Syrian activist living in the United States, who prefers to remain anonymous. She says activists in Syria and abroad see the Security Council statement as a "successful step."
"We see this as a very good step toward the right actions to stand with the Syrian people and also like a very good step to establish a transitional plan," she said.
The United Nations says at least 8,000 people have been killed in the Assad government's violent crackdown on the revolt, which began with peaceful protests and became increasingly militarized as army defectors attacked pro-Assad troops who assaulted civilians.
Human Rights Watch issued a statement Thursday saying Syrian security forces are committing "serious abuses" in Qusair, including shelling of residential areas and attacking fleeing residents. The group also described "dire" humanitarian conditions in the city.
The international community will hold its second "Friends of Syria" meeting next month in Istanbul amid efforts to bring the year-long government crackdown to an end. The U.S. State Department announced Thursday that U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton will attend the meeting on April 1.
Some information for this report was provided by AP and AFP.
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