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70+ Killed as Syria Violence Escalates

Syria saw one of the bloodiest days of its eight-month anti-regime protest movement as soldiers fired on protesters, clashed with defectors.
By Gabe Kahn.
First Publish: 11/16/2011, 3:22 PM

More than 70 people were killed in Syria Tuesday in what observers said was one of the bloodiest days of President Bashar al-Assad's eight-month crackdown on anti-regime protesters.

A total of 34 soldiers and 12 suspected army deserters were killed in clashes, as well as 27 civilians shot dead by security forces in the regime's intensifying crackdown.

Clashes between army defectors mounting an insurgency under the tutelage of dissident Syrian Air Force General Riad Assad - who is in Turkey - have been become increasingly common, and deadly, in recent months.

Most of the dead were killed in Dara'a province, the uprising's birthplace close to the border with Jordan - which has become increasingly outspoken about the bloodshed of its northern neighbor.

More than 100 Assad supporters stormed the Jordanian embassy in Damascus overnight - after King Abdullah II became the first Arab leader to publicly call for the embattled Syrian president to step down.

The Jordanian embassy is the fifth diplomatic mission to be targeted by Assad supporters. Previously, the French, Turkish, Qatari, and U.S. embassies also faced angry mobs who attempted to storm their compounds.

Amid the bloodshed Assad loyalists have become increasingly angry over the isolation Damascus faces in the international arena, which has spread to the Arab world. The 22-member Arab League suspended Syria's membership on Saturday.

However, inspired by broad diplomatic support abroad and Assad's increasingly desperate and brutal crackdown, Syrian opposition leaders have stepped up contacts with Moscow.

Russia, along with China, has consistently used its veto in the U.N. Security Council to protect Assad's government from universal sanctions in the Council.

Moscow has billions in contracts and investments bound up with Assad's regime, but observers say the Kremlin may be swayed to throw its weight behind the Syrian opposition if doing so will secure its financial interests.

Russia, they say, found billions in limbo after it opposed international intervention against the regime of the late Libyan strongman Muammar Qaddafi.

Human rights officials say more than 4,200 have been killed in the eight-month uprising against Assad's regime - most of them civilians.