Syria violence kills 80 – monitors
Beirut - At least 80 people, mostly civilians, were killed on Tuesday as Syrian forces pressed their crackdown on dissent despite a truce pledge, monitors said on Wednesday.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said that a total of 58 civilians were killed, including 20 who died in military assaults and in fighting between troops and rebels in Taftanaz region of restive north-western Idlib province.
Another 15 civilians were killed when the army pounded rebel holdouts in the central city of Homs, while the remainder died in other flashpoints across the country, the Britain-based Observatory said.
It added that 18 soldiers were killed in Homs, Idlib and the southern Daraa province, while four army deserters died in Idlib.
A previous toll by the Observatory said 44 people were killed across Syria on Tuesday, including 31 civilians.
The surge in violence comes despite a pledge by President Bashar al-Assad to UN-Arab League peace monitor Kofi Annan that he would "immediately" start pulling back his forces and complete a military withdrawal from urban areas by April 10.
The Observatory has charged that the army is torching and looting rebel houses across the country in a campaign that could amount to crimes against humanity.
The United States on Tuesday accused Assad of failing to honour his pledged troop withdrawal, as the UN said it was rushing a team to Damascus to pave the way for peace monitors.
International Committee of the Red Cross chief Kellenberger, on his third mission to Damascus since it launched a protest crackdown which the UN says has killed more than 9 000 people, said ahead of his latest trip that he would seek to secure a daily two-hour humanitarian ceasefire.