BEIRUT Seven Syrian government troops were reported killed during fighting with army renegades in a southern town Wednesday as months of unrest countered by violent repression slid gradually toward a civil war.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said clashes erupted when security forces moved in strength into the town of Dael in the early morning, and were still going on in late afternoon.
"Two security force vehicles were blown up. Seven (troops) were killed," said Rami Abdel Rahman, head of the observatory.
It said 19 people were wounded in the clashes and four of them were in critical condition.
An activist from the town, in the province of Deraa, said some 30 busloads of security men stormed Dael and two of the buses were blown up in fighting "between security forces and defectors," the Observatory reported.
One bus had been empty, it said.
In the north of Syria, at least six civilians were shot dead Wednesday when security forces broke up an anti-government demonstration in the city of Idlib, the Observatory said.
There were no further details.
What began in March as a one-sided bid by President Bashar al-Assad's security forces to smother a popular revolt against his rule had turned in recent weeks into an urban guerrilla war between state troops and police against defectors who have joined the revolution.
Syrian state news agency SANA said 14 troops killed in recent fighting were buried with honors Tuesday. At the same time, the Observatory reported three soldiers killed in an ambush by renegades in the north of the country.
(Writing by Douglas Hamilton reporting by Mariam Karouny; editing by Maria Golovnina)