Syrian rebels kill 14 soldiers in Deraa, Damascus

BEIRUT Sat Jun 2, 2012 7:16am EDT

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BEIRUT (Reuters) - Syrian rebels fighting to oust President Bashar al-Assad killed six soldiers in the southern province of Deraa on Saturday and at least eight others in clashes on the outskirts of the capital Damascus, a monitoring group reported.

"There were heavy clashes between Syrian forces and fighters from the opposition in (Deraa)... resulting in the death of at least 6 Syrian troops," the British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said in a statement.

"At dawn, there were violent clashes in al-Ghouta (near Damascus), killing at least eight Syrian troops," it added.

The Observatory said that two civilians were also killed on Saturday, one during army raids in Damascus and one by gunfire in the central city of Homs, where activists say the army has been waging a shelling offensive on opposition districts.

The 15-month uprising shows signs of nascent civil war, with rebels saying they need to fight to protect civilians from being massacred at the hand of Assad's forces and loyalist gunmen.

On May 25 United Nations ceasefire observers documented the killing of more than 100 men, women and children in the western Houla region, and the world body said that the army and pro-Assad gunmen were probably responsible for the massacre.

(Reporting by Oliver Holmes; Editing by Mark Heinrich)

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