Fighting in Syria spilled over to Beirut: burnt out car in the Tariq al-Jdideh district. (Daily Star)
At least 54 people, including 31 soldiers, were killed on Monday in the ongoing unrest that has shaken Syria since March last year, the London based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said. Fierce fighting near Damascus and in the regions of Aleppo and in the Idlib province, in northwestern Syria, killed at least 22 soldiers and 11 rebels, it said. Also tanks and transport vehicles were destroyed during the battles. it added.
Nine army deserters were killed overnight as they retreated under cover of darkness from Jisr al-Ab village near the Damascus suburb of Douma. Also in the Damascus area, troops fired on people at a funeral, the Observatory said. A bomb rocked the Damascus neighbourhood of Qaboon during the night killing five people. Elsewhere five civilians were killed, including two in a bombing and military raid in central Hama province, one by unidentified gunmen in the nearby region of Homs, and two more in fighting between the army and rebels in coastal Banias.
A spokesman for UN chief Ban Ki Moon said at the NATO summit in Chicago that he was increasingly worried about the situation in Syria. 'The secretary general said we were at a pivotal moment in the search for a peaceful settlement to the crisis and that he remained extremely troubled about the risk of an all-out civil war,' Ban's spokesman said.
The Syrian crisis also spread to Beirut, the capital of neighbouring Lebanon, for the first time since the upheaval erupted in March 2011, with overnight street battles between pro- and anti-Syrian groups.
"During the night, groups of young men cut off the road in the Tariq el-Jdideh district and street battles followed," a security official said.
"Two people were killed and 18 were wounded," he said, adding machineguns had been fired and that the fighting had raged until about 3:00 am (2400 GMT).
The clashes broke out after reports emerged troops had shot dead an anti-Syria Sunni cleric, Sheikh Ahmad Abdul Wahid, when his convoy failed to stop at a checkpoint in north Lebanon on Sunday.
The cleric's killing followed a week of intermittent clashes that left 10 people dead in Lebanon's northern port city of Tripoli between Sunnis hostile to the Syrian regime and Alawites who support Assad.