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25 die in Syria, as defectors battle regime forces

Violence sweeped across Syria killing 25 people on Saturday, including seven soldiers and policemen, as well as five defectors and three civilians. Most of them were killed in a battle between troops and a growing force of army defectors, who have joined the movement to oust Bashar Assad, the autocratic ruler, activists said. The revolt against Assad's rule began with peaceful protests in mid-March, triggering a brutal crackdown. Arab officials were to meet on Saturday in Qatar to review punitive steps by the Arab League, including a travel ban on 17 Syrian officials, among them cabinet ministers and security officials. The UN's top human rights official this week said that Syria is in a state of civil war and that more than 4,000 people have been killed since March.

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