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25 killed in Syria fighting as force of army defectors rises

Pro-Syrian regime protester waves Syrian flag as he stands in front of portrait of President Bashar Assad, during protest in Damascus against sanctions.

AP PHOTO

BEIRUT — Violence sweeping across Syria killed 25 people on Saturday, most of them in a battle between troops and a growing force of army defectors who have joined the movement to oust the autocratic president, activists said.

The Arab League, meanwhile, agreed on the details of economic and diplomatic sanctions against the regime.

The revolt against Bashar Assad’s rule began with peaceful protests in mid-March, triggering a brutal crackdown.

The unrest has steadily become bloodier as defectors and some civilians take up arms, prompting the United Nations’ human rights chief to refer to it this week as a civil war and urge the international community to protect Syrian civilians.

Sanctions by the United States, the European Union, Turkey and the 22-member Arab League have so far failed to blunt the turmoil.

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