Rebels Kill 14 Soldiers in Clashes With Syria Army

Rebels kills six soldiers in southern province of Daraa, and at least eight others in clashes on the outskirts of Damascus; New poll shows majority of French citizens support armed intervention in Syria crisis.

Syrian rebels fighting to oust President Bashar Assad killed six soldiers in the southern province of Daraa 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 (Daraa)... 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.

Meanwhile, a widening majority of French people favor military intervention in Syria nd more believe France should participate, according to the first poll on the issue since a recent massacre in the country.

The Ifop poll on Saturday showed backing for military intervention at 58 percent, up from 51 percent in February, and support for French involvement surging to 50 percent from 38 percent.

Ifop said that the increase "is undoubtedly linked to the multiplication of war crimes blamed on Bashar al-Assad's regime and their recent media coverage".

Outrage at last week's mass killings in the Syrian town of Houla has prompted France to join several Western nations in stepping up pressure on Syria by expelling senior diplomats and calling on Russia to allow tougher action by the U.N. Security Council.

France's new President Francois Hollande said on Tuesday that military intervention could not be ruled out as long as it was carried out under the auspices of a U.N. Security Council resolution.

As the Syria crisis escalates, Hollande is under pressure to show the same decisiveness and leadership that his conservative predecessor Nicolas Sarkozy did in the Libyan crisis last year.

Hollande failed to win backing from Russia's Vladimir Putin in talks in Paris on Friday for more sanctions on Syria, which he said were an essential part of a political solution.

The Ifop online poll, carried out from May 30 to June 1 for regional newspaper Ouest France, surveyed 1,000 people over the age of 18.

In Lebanon, supporters and opponents of Assad clashed in the port city of Tripoli on Saturday, leaving one dead and ten others wounded, residents said.

They said the fatality was a civilian caught in the crossfire, adding that a Lebanese soldier was wounded when the army tried to intervene.

Gunmen from the Jabal Mohsen district, home to the minority Alawite sect, the same offshoot of Shi'ite Islam to which Assad belongs, have fought on-off skirmishes over the past few weeks with residents of Bab al-Tabbaneh, who are Sunni Muslims.

The neighborhoods have long-standing grievances separate from the Syria conflict but the Sunni-led uprising has fermented strife among Lebanon's divided population, especially in majority Sunni Tripoli, 70 km (43 miles) north of Beirut.