Syrian army defectors killed at least 27 of their former comrades in Daraa province today, in one of the deadliest battles yet in what many fear is a budding Syrian civil war, activists tell the AP. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights says it has eye-witness reports of at least three separate clashes erupting around dawn. So far no one has claimed responsibility for the attacks, but they are reminiscent of past attacks by the Free Syrian Army rebel group.
The US is actively encouraging further army defections, with the Obama administration's point man on Syria saying that Bashar al-Assad was setting troops up for war crimes prosecutions with last week's proclamation that the army wasn't his to command. "It's difficult to imagine a more craven disclaimer of responsibility," Frederic Hof said yesterday. "Perhaps it is a rehearsal for the time when accountability will come." (Read more Syria stories.)