29 troops among 58 dead in Syria

Majority died in direct fighting: rights group

Twenty-nine soldiers and a cleric were among 58 people killed in violence across Syria on Wednesday, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.

At least 20 troops died in clashes in the northwestern province of Latakia, while another five were killed in fighting that erupted late Tuesday in the Kurdish mountain region, the watchdog said.

"The majority died in direct fighting... while other soldiers were killed in a rebel attack on two buildings which the army was using to launch mortar attacks against the Kurdish mountains," the Observatory's Rami Abdel Rahman said.

In Idlib, another northwestern province, five troops were killed when a car bomb exploded at their checkpoint. Two civilians were also killed in the region.

The Observatory reported explosions and shooting in the town of Maaret al-Numan, where the Local Coordination Committees activist group said there was fierce shelling and gunfire aimed at residential areas.

Fighting in the Hama province town of Kernaz left three soldiers dead, the Observatory said. Five civilians were killed elsewhere in the central region.

"Unidentified gunmen assassinated a cleric in Sayyida Zeinab," it said, referring to an area of south Damascus that houses a shrine of the same name and is home to many Iraqi refugees.

Nearer the city centre, clashes broke out between rebel fighters and government forces in Tadamon, the Observatory said.

Also in Damascus, a military doctor was killed by an explosive device planted in his car.

Northeast of the capital, troops shot a civilian dead in Harasta, while a rebel died of wounds suffered in an earlier attack. Six civilians died in Douma, including three executed by regime forces, Abdel Rahman told AFP.

Troops also shelled villages in the northern province of Aleppo, killing one civilian, the Observatory said.

"There are clashes near the Hreitan and Anadan villages, and the regime is trying its hardest to make people turn against the revolt," an activist told AFP via Skype. "They burnt all the fields, leaving us with nothing to eat."

In the eastern city of Deir Ezzor, sniper fire killed a civilian in the Al-Qusur district, while in the southern province of Daraa, four civilians were killed.

One child was killed in shelling of the Homs province town of Rastan, the Observatory said.

In Homs city, a rebel died near Baba Amr district amid fierce clashes between troops and rebels. Baba Amr was in rebel hands until it was pounded relentlessly for a month in March.

The opposition Syrian National Council warned at the weekend of a looming massacre in Homs, which it said was besieged by 30,000 troops and pro-regime militiamen.

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