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Syria violence kills 23 despite UN-monitored 'truce'

BEIRUT -- Violence erupted in two Syrian provinces on Tuesday, with a rights group reporting 10 civilians dead in an army mortar attack and 12 soldiers killed in a firefight with rebel gunmen as U.N. monitors sought to shore up a shaky cease-fire.

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, which tracks the 13-month-old uprising against President Bashar al-Assad, said nine members of one family died in mortar bomb blasts in a village in the northern province of Idlib.

An activist on the Turkish border, Tareq Abdelhaq, said 35 people had been wounded and that some were being carried 25 km (15 miles) along mountain tracks to receive emergency treatment in refugee camps dotted along the frontier.

“Some are being smuggled over the border to Turkey. They had to carry the wounded and go through the mountains to avoid checkpoints on the road,” Abdelhaq said. “One guy died on the way. He was 19 years old and had very bad injuries.”

In the eastern Deir al-Zor province, troops hit back with mortar and heavy machinegun fire after losing a dozen of their own to insurgents, killing at least one villager and destroying a school, the anti-Assad Observatory added.

The United Nations says Syrian forces have killed more than 9,000 people since the uprising began in March 2011.

Like other Arab revolts against autocratic rulers, it began with peaceful mass protests but a violent government response has spawned an increasingly bloody insurgency. Damascus says rebels have killed more than 2,600 soldiers and police.

A U.N. cease-fire brokered in mid-April led to a brief lull but failed to halt the conflict. Rebels starved of funding and ammunition appear to be stepping up a bombing campaign.

Explosions blew the fronts off buildings in the northwestern city of Idlib on Monday, killing nine people and wounding 100, including security personnel, according to state television, which blamed the blasts on “terrorist” suicide bombers.

Damascus has accused the United Nations of turning a blind eye to rebel cease-fire violations, although Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon condemned the Idlib blasts and a rocket attack on the central bank in the capital as “terrorist bomb attacks.”

Cycle of Violence

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In this photo released by the Syrian official news agency SANA, a Syrian man stands in front of a building that was damaged after two bombs exploded near a military compound, in the city of Idlib, northwestern Syria, Monday, April 30.

(AP)

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