Beirut: Security force raids on protest hubs and clashes with armed rebels on Sunday left 23 people dead, 16 of them civilians, monitors and activists said, as a tenuous UN-backed ceasefire entered its second month.

The fresh wave of bloodletting came as the UN mission in Syria said it now has 189 military observers on the ground, nearly two-thirds of its planned strength of 300.

The observers are tasked with shoring up a ceasefire brokered by UN-Arab League peace envoy Kofi Annan that was supposed to take effect on April 12 but which has been broken daily by both sides to the conflict.

Two civilians and five soldiers died in gunfights between regime forces and armed rebels in the southern province of Daraa, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported.

Clashes broke out in front of a military intelligence office and a recruitment centre in the Daraa village of Nawa and at a checkpoint in the town of Hara, it added.

In central Hama province, five people were killed by gunfire, including a woman, when regime forces raided the village of Al-Tamanaa Al-Ghab, the Britain-based watchdog said, adding that 18 people were wounded and several houses set on fire.

A man and his son were killed and 10 other people wounded when they were shot by regime forces in the town of Qusayr in central Homs province, where armed rebel groups have strongholds, the watchdog added.

Also in Homs, a civilian was killed by sniper fire in the town of Rastan.
Outside Damascus, a civilian was shot dead by regime forces at a checkpoint in Dmeir, while another two were killed by regime forces in the capital's northern suburb of Douma, according to the Observatory.

A rebel commander, Abu Adi, was killed in overnight clashes with regime forces in Douma, while an officer who deserted the army died in a dawn ambush in the eastern province of Deir Ezzor.

Regime forces killed two more civilians in northwest Idlib province and another in the town of Anadan in northern Aleppo province.

The Local Coordination Committees (LCC), a coalition of opposition activists on the ground, said the Syrian army shelled Douma early on Sunday and that heavy gunfire was also heard in the suburb.

On Saturday, 22 people were killed, including 11 civilians, two deserters and nine regime troops, of whom seven were killed during fighting in Idlib province.

(Agencies)

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