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Several dead in new Syrian clashes

Syrian troops have been battling army defectors in clashes that left several military vehicles in flames.

The fighting and other violence around the nation killed at least five people, activists said.

For the first time, an act of violent protest against president Bashar Assad's regime spilled across the border into Jordan, where about a dozen Syrians attacked their embassy in the capital, Amman, wounding at least two diplomats and four other consulate employees.

The nine-month-old uprising against Syria's authoritarian Assad has grown increasingly violent in recent months as once-peaceful protesters take up arms and rebel soldiers joining the uprising fight back against the army. The UN says more than 4,000 people have been killed since March.

Opposition activists called for a general strike starting on Sunday to add to the pressure on the government to stop its bloody crackdown. Assad has refused to buckle under Arab and international pressure to step down and has shown no signs of easing his crackdown, which has included assaults by the military on unarmed protesters.

Now, fighting between loyalist forces and defectors calling themselves the Free Syrian Army threatens to push the confrontation into civil war.

In one of the latest clashes, which took place before dawn in the north-western town of Kfar Takharim, two of the military's armoured vehicles were set ablaze, said the British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

Three other vehicles were burned in another clash near the southern village of Busra al-Harir, the group said. Similar battles took place in several other parts of the south, said the Observatory and another activist group called the Local Co-ordination Committees.

The Observatory said two people were killed in the clash with defectors in Kfar Takharim. Two other people who went missing days ago were tortured to death in the central province of Homs, and one person was shot at a checkpoint in the southern province of Daraa, the group said.

The LCC put Sunday's death toll at nine.

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