Syrian military vehicles set alight as violent protests spill over into Jordan

 

Beirut

Syrian army vehicles were set ablaze yesterday as troops battled defectors during clashes that killed at least eight people across the country, according to activists.

For the first time, violent protests against President Bashar Assad's regime spilled across the border into Jordan, where about a dozen Syrians attacked the embassy in the capital, Amman, injuring at least two diplomats and four consulate employees.

The nine-month-old uprising against Syria's authoritarian president has grown increasingly violent in recent months as protesters take up arms and defected soldiers who have joined the uprising fight back against the army.

Fighting between loyalist forces and defectors calling themselves the Free Syrian Army threatens to push the confrontation, which has already claimed 4,000 lives according to the UN, into civil war. In one of yesterday's clashes, which took place in the northwestern town of Kfar Takharim, two of the military's armoured vehicles were set ablaze, said the British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

Three other vehicles were burned in another clash near the southern village of Busra al-Harir, the group said. Similar battles took place in several other parts of the south, said the Observatory and the Local Coordination Committees (LCC). The Observatory said at least eight people were killed while the LCC put the death toll at 18.

In Jordan, the Syrian embassy said protesters entered claiming they had paperwork to finish and beat up the consul, another diplomat, a security guard and several staff. The embassy said its guards arrested one of the attackers, identified as Syrian refugee Ahmed al-Shureiqi. It said Jordanian police arrested eight others, all Syrians.

The Syrian opposition called for a general strike yesterday, the first working day of the week in Syria, saying it will go on until the regime pulls the army out of cities and releases detainees. The LCC said security forces tried to force shops to open.

Syrians are scheduled to vote in municipal elections today for the country's 14 provinces – the first test of reforms by Assad. It was unclear how many people would actually turn out to vote in tense areas like Idlib, Homs and Hama. AP

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