At least 28 Syrian soldiers have been killed in clashes with rebel fighters in the northwestern Syrian province of Latakia according to a rights group.
The soldiers were among 39 people killed across the country, according to the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.
“The majority died in direct fighting with the rebels, while other soldiers were killed in a rebel attack on two buildings, which the army was using to launch mortar attacks against the Kurdish Mountain,” Observatory head Rami Abdel Rahman told AFP news agency.
“A number of soldiers, including an officer, were captured by the rebels, who also took their weapons,” he added.
Dozens of soldiers were also wounded, Abdel Rahman said.
Meanwhile, five rebels were also killed in the clashes that began late Tuesday and continued through dawn on Wednesday in a region known as the Kurdish Mountain near the border with Turkey.
In Idlib, another northwestern province that borders Turkey, five government troops were killed when a car bomb exploded at their checkpoint overnight. Explosions and shooting were also heard in the town of Maaret al-Numan, the Observatory said.
In the central province of Hama, clashes in the town of Kernaz left three soldiers dead. Shelling by government troops also killed a man and his wife.
“Unidentified gunmen assassinated a Shiite cleric in Sayyida Zeinab,” the Observatory said, referring to an area of south Damascus that houses a revered Shiite shrine of the same name and is home to many Iraqi refugees.
The shrine, which is visited by hundreds of thousands of pilgrims each year, mainly from Syria’s ally Iran, was the site of a suicide bombing on June 14 that wounded 14 people and damaged the mosque.
Nearer the city center, clashes broke out between rebel fighters and government forces in the Tadamon neighborhood, the Observatory said.
Northeast of the capital, troops shot a civilian dead at a checkpoint in Harasta, while a rebel officer died of wounds sustained in an earlier attack in the town.
In the eastern city of Deir Ezzor, sniper fire killed a civilian in the al-Qasur neighborhood, the watchdog said.
More than 14,400 people, most of them civilians, have been killed since the revolt against the rule of President Bashar al-Assad erupted in March 2011, according to the Observatory’s figures.
The violence has continued despite the presence of United Nations international monitors in the country.
The head of the U.N. observer mission in Syria said on Tuesday that UN forces have come under fire multiple times recently but are committed to staying in the strife-torn country.
Major General Robert Mood said after a private briefing of the Security Council that questions about canceling the mission were premature and noted, “We are not going anywhere.”
The U.N. said on Saturday its 300 observers based in Syria were suspending all missions because of concerns for their safety after fighting intensified over the previous 10 days.
“Shelling, small arms fire and other incidents are coming much closer, and we have been targets several times over the last few weeks,” Mood said. It was not only dangerous to his observers, but made it difficult to carry out their mission, he added.
“The suffering of the Syrian people, the suffering of men, women and children, some of them trapped by fighting, is getting worse.”
Meanwhile, Syria’s U.N. ambassador, Bashar Jaafari, said that Mood’s briefing was “well-balanced,” and called on all interested parties to push for the resumption of Mood’s mission.