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At least 30 killed in Syrian violence

Handout/Reuters

Demonstrators protested yesterday against President Bashar Assad of Syria in Jerjenaz in the northern province of Idlib.

BEIRUT - Violence surged yesterday in Syria as activists reported at least 30 people killed, including four soldiers who had defected, in several towns and cities.

In the northern province of Idlib, near the Turkish border, a roadside bomb struck a minibus, killing at least eight passengers, according to the Local Coordination Committees. The activist group said the device was planted by Syrian security forces loyal to the government of President Bashar Assad. It was not possible to independently confirm their report, and both sides in the conflict routinely blame the other.

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It was the second such attack in the region in two days. On Sunday, an improvised explosive device struck a bus carrying workers from a textile factory in Idlib, killing at least six people and wounding 16 others.

An activist from the area who gave his name as Abu Moayed said the bomb was planted by men driving a Peugeot 504, a model often used by Syrian security forces.

The Syrian state news agency said four people were killed and five wounded in yesterday’s attack. It said the explosion, which it blamed on terrorists, was on the road linking the cities of Saraqib and Idlib in Idlib Province. SANA quoted a police official in the area saying the bomb was planted on the right side of the road and was detonated by remote control.

The Local Coordination Committees also said that Syrian security forces attacked several neighborhoods in the restive city of Homs in central Syria, killing at least 15 people. The city, near the Lebanese border, is the most embattled in Syria.

The town of Zabadani, also near the Lebanese border, was under siege for the fifth day with water and communication lines down in several areas of the town, according to activists and residents reached by phone.

“The situation is so bad in the western part of the town, more than half of the residents left the area,’’ said Farres Mohammad, a resident reached by phone. “We are under siege. The army is not letting anything pass through, not even the air.’’

The Local Committees also said the bodies of three soldiers who had defected from the army were discovered in a cemetery of the town of Ariha in Idlib province.

A video posted on YouTube showed the three soldiers wearing civilian clothes, as they lay motionless on the ground. One of them had his legs and arms tied. The group said the soldiers had been hiding in the cemetery.

Yesterday’s violence came a day after the Syrian Free Army, a group of defected soldiers whose leader is based in Turkey, called on the United Nations to invoke Chapter 7 from its charter to take military action against Syria to end the killing of civilians.

The Qatari emir, Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani, was quoted Saturday as saying that Arab countries should send Arab troops to Syria to end the authorities’ crackdown on protesters and help stop the violence, which has persisted despite the dispatch last month of observers from the Arab League.

The emir’s statement was the first of its kind by an Arab leader.

The United Nations said at least 400 people have been killed in the past three weeks, adding to a previous toll of 5,000 people killed in the period between mid-March until December.

Syria’s Foreign Ministry said in a statement yesterday that it “absolutely rejects’’ any plans to send Arab troops into the country.

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