BEIRUT: Violence in Syria killed 89 people on Saturday, including 57 soldiers, the largest number of casualties the military has suffered in a single since an uprising began in March 2011, a watchdog said.
The casualties also included 29 civilians and three army defectors killed in various regions of the country in shelling by regime forces or in clashes or gunfire, said the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.
Asked about the high number of troops killed in recent days, the Observatory's Rami Abdel-Rahman told AFP: "This relates to the sharp increase in clashes across the country. Troops are vulnerable to heavy losses because they are not trained for street battles and are therefore exposed to attacks."
"What exacerbates those losses is that the army is fighting locals of those towns and villages, whether military defectors or civilians who took up arms against the regime, who know the area inside and out and enjoy public support."
Opposition fighters are defending their towns by targeting approaching military vehicles with automatic weapons or grenades which has taken a heavy toll on the army and security forces, said Abdel Rahman. He added that the figures "do not include armed groups supported by the shabiha (pro-regime militia), of which thousands have been killed since the start of the clashes -- only the regular military troops."
"The official Syrian media has ignored these figures so as not to demoralise the troops," he added. One civilian was killed early morning Sunday in the town of Kafr Sita in the central province of Hama, during bombing by regime forces attempting to regain control of the town after heavy losses suffered overnight Saturday. A second civilian was killed after midnight on Saturday in the northern province of Aleppo during shelling by regime troops.
More than 13,400 people have been killed across Syria since an anti-regime uprising erupted in March 2011, including nearly 2,300 since the ceasefire technically went into effect on April 12, according to Observatory figures.