Syrian children speak with Arab League observ
Syrian children speak with Arab League observIsrael news photo: Ugarit News

Four leading anti-government activists were killed Thursday by Assad loyalist forces in an ambush in the northwestern Idlib province, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. The ambush took place in the Zawiya hills, close to the border with Turkey. No names were available at the time of the report.

According to the report from the human rights organization, the unarmed activists who were killed had gone into hiding with other opponents to the regime, who were armed.

The body of a young man arrested after being shot during a protest was also found in the eastern hotbed of Deir Ezzor. 

In the southern province of Dera'a, government troops shot and wounded a soldier trying to defect at a security checkpoint in Da'el, the Observatory added.

Also on Thursday, a government security officer was killed when his car was bombed in Damascus, according to the Al-Arabiya news network.

Meanwhile, government forces continued to shell the central city of Homs, a hotbed of resistance to the regime. One civilian was killed and seven others were wounded during shelling of the Bab Hud neighborhood in the city. By mid-afternoon, some 18 people had been killed across the country, according to the human rights group.

Thirteen civilians were killed on Wednesday.

Estimates of the death toll have ranged from a low of 5,400 to more than 6,000, and appear to fluctuate daily, depending on which United Nations representative is speaking with the media. But the truth is, it is impossible to accurately assess what is really happening on the ground, because the slaughter is on such a wide scale, and complicated with massive arrests and "disappearances." Thousands of people have been injured, and many of them have been tortured while in detention, including numerous women and children.

Assad has been accused of crimes against humanity by the U.N. Human Rights Council, which has declared him personally responsible for the atrocities committed against his people by government troops over the past 10 months.

An observer mission sent by the Arab League with the intent of stemming the slaughter has been largely ineffectual, and if anything, has possibly even exacerbated the problem, providing an unintended cover for the murders by government troops, a subgroup of the Arab League has warned.