At least 18 Syrian soldiers were killed Monday in an ambush by rebels on the Homs-Palmyra road in central Syria, reported the Syrian Observatory of Human Rights (SOHR). "At least 18 soldiers were killed and over 30 were injured in (...) an ambush on their convoy, which included buses, trucks and vehicles traveling on the Homs-Tadmor (Palmyra)" road , said the London-based NGO.
Across Syria, 59 people, including 34 civilians and 21 soldiers were killed Monday in fighting, aerial bombardments and artillery carried by the regime troops, according to a preliminary assessment by the NGO .
Heavy fighting between troops and rebels reported Monday in the historic market of Aleppo, a site which is listed by UNESCO as an heritage site. "The biggest problem is that we know nothing about our shops, everything we know, we learn from rumors," lamented a merchant from the market.
Meanwhile, France on Monday expressed its "strong condemnation following the destruction by fire of the medieval market of Aleppo." The wooden doors of the shops, filled with fabrics and embroideries were quickly destroyed after the first battles Saturday.
In total, 56 people, including 31 civilians were killed Sunday in violence across the country.
On his part, the Syrian foreign minister, Walid Moallem, accused the United States of wishing to repeat the scenario that led to the fall of the Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein, using the existence of chemical weapons in the country. "This is a dream they invented to launch a campaign against Syria as they did in Iraq," he said in an interview with the Arabic channel Al-Mayadeen.
Muallem, however, remained vague about the existence of such weapons by the regime. "These chemical weapons in Syria, if they exist, and I mean if they exist, how is it possible that we use them against our own people?," he asked.
Last week, U.S. Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta had asserted that Damascus had moved chemical weapons to secure them.
Mr. Moallem also noted that countries like Qatar "spent billions of dollars to assassinate the Syrian people."