BEIRUT - Syrian troops battled army defectors Sunday in clashes that set several military vehicles ablaze. The fighting and other violence around the nation killed at least eight people, activists said.
For the first time, an act of violent protest against President Bashar al-Assad's regime spilled across the border into Jordan, where about a dozen Syrians attacked their embassy Sunday in the capital, Amman, injuring at least two diplomats and four other consulate employees.
The nine-month-old uprising against Syria's authoritarian president has grown more violent in recent months.
Opposition activists called for a general strike starting Sunday in a bid to squeeze the government and push it to stop its bloody crackdown. Assad has refused to buckle under Arab and international pressure to step down and has shown no sign of easing his crackdown.
Now, fighting between loyalist forces and defectors calling themselves the Free Syrian Army threatens to push the clash into civil war.
In one of Sunday's clashes, which took place before dawn in the northwestern town of Kfar Takharim, two of the military's armored vehicles were set ablaze, the British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.
Three other vehicles were burned in another clash near the southern village of Busra al-Harir, the group said. Similar battles took place in other parts of the south, said the Observatory and another activist group, the Local Coordination 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 group also said that two people were killed in Homs, and the body of another person who had been missing for days was found Sunday. Two people were killed in the Damascus suburb of Douma, and another person in Hama in central Syria.
The LCC put Sunday's death toll at 18. It was impossible to resolve the discrepancy or to independently verify either death count. Syria has banned most foreign journalists and prevented local reporters from moving freely.