Syria Security Forces Raid Northern Village, Kill 3 Army Defectors

Troops raid house belonging to the brother of Hussein Harmoush, who defected from the army in June and set up the movement Syrian Free Officers.

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At least three defectors from the Syrian Army were killed Thursday and two others detained during a hunt by security forces in the north-eastern region of Jabal al-Zawiya, broadcaster Al Jazeera reported quoting opposition activists.

Troops aided a house belonging to the brother of Hussein Harmoush, who allegedly defected from the army in June and set up the movement Syrian Free Officers, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

Syrian army soldiers ride on their military trucks as they enter the villages near the town of Jisr al-Shughour, north of Damascus, Syria.Credit: AP

The deaths and the arrests took place during the raid in Jabal al-Zawiyah's village of Ibleen, said the London-based group.

"A force comprising seven armored vehicles and 10 jeeps, backed by army tanks, stormed the village of Ibleen in search for people wanted by the security services," said the observatory's chief, Rami Abdel Rahman.

Meanwhile, footage posted online Thursday by activists showed what they claimed were fires deliberately set by security forces and al-Shabeeha, a pro-government militia, in the district of Bostan al-Diwan in the dissident central city of Homs. No casualties were reported.

At least 34 people, mainly in Homs were killed Wednesday in security swoops, described by activists as fierce.

Security forces were intensifying their hunt for Adnan Bakhour, the attorney general of the restive city of Hama who recently announced his defection, Al Jazeera reported Thursday.

Several families of wanted activists were arrested during the clampdown, the report said.

Bakhour appeared in videos last week in which he said he had resigned because of a massive government campaign of killing and torture in Hama.

The government claimed that Bakhour had been kidnapped and was forced to issue the statement.

Earlier Thursday, an activist based in Lebanon told the German Press Agency dpa that 40 soldiers had defected. He said the violence escalated in Homs late Wednesday because of the defections.

Soldiers were refusing to carry out orders, especially to shoot at the injured people," the activist said.

Wissam Tarif, a Syrian national with the international activist group Avaaz, said: "The defections had sparked a clash between soldiers trying to flee and security forces loyal to the regime."

These reports cannot be independently verified as the government has barred foreign media from the country.

Meanwhile, Turkish President Abdullah Gul has called on his Syrian counterpart Bashar Assad to "draw lessons" from the popular uprisings sweeping the Arab world, including Syria.

"Some Arab leaders have not realized that totalitarian regimes are no longer relevant to our changing world," Gul told Al Arabiya, in an interview broadcast Thursday.

He said that cracking down on the protests in Syria, a neighbor of Turkey, was no longer acceptable.

Referring to a message delivered by Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu to Assad last month, Gul said that he had asked in "this message of last chance" to stop the bloodshed, release all political detainees and hold free elections.

"The reforms declared by Assad are limited and late," Gul told the Dubai-based broadcaster.

At least 2,200 people have been killed since the anti-government protests started in Syria in mid-March, according to the United Nations.