(MENAFN - Jordan Times) Fierce fighting killed at least 18 soldiers and two army deserters in northwestern Syria on Monday, a Britain-based rights watchdog said.
Meanwhile, the UN and international players expressed concern over the spilling of Syria bllodshed into Lebanon after the killing of two Sunni clerics in the country, followed by violence that saw at least two person killed in Beirut.
The clashes in Syria, which took place in an area between Atareb town in northern Aleppo province and Kafar Karmin in the neighbouring region of Idlib, also destroyed tanks and armoured personnel carriers, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said in a statement, quoted by Agence France-Presse.
The latest reported casualties bring to 38 the number of people killed in Syria on Monday, according to the observatory, among them five civilians, 11 deserters and 22 soldiers.
Earlier, the monitoring group said Syrian forces ambushed and killed nine army deserters overnight, as they were retreating under cover of darkness from the village of Jisr Al Ab near Damascus' Douma suburb.
Elsewhere five civilians were killed, including two in a bombing and military raid in central Hama province, one by unidentified gunmen in the nearby region of Homs, and two more in fighting between the army and rebels in coastal Banias.
Violence in Syria persists despite the presence of UN observers to oversee a truce that came into effect on April 12 but which has been consistently violated by both sides.
On Sunday, at least 48 people were killed across Syria, including 34 in an assault by regime forces on a village in central Hama province, the observatory reported.
The watchdog says more than 12,000 people have died in the violence convulsing Syria since anti-regime protests first erupted in March 2011, which was followed by a brutal government crackdown on dissent.
Meanwhile, Reuters reported that UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon expressed concern on Monday that violence from the 14-month conflict in Syria could spread to neighbouring Lebanon, and reiterated his fear that the Syrian violence may erupt into a full-scale civil war.
In a readout of a meeting between Ban and new French President Francois Hollande on the sidelines of the NATO summit in Chicago, the UN press office wrote that Ban said the world is at "a pivotal moment in the search for a peaceful settlement to the crisis".
Ban was "extremely troubled about the risk of an all-out civil war [in Syria] and was concerned about the outbreak of related violence in Lebanon," the UN statement said.
At least two people were killed in heavy fighting between rival Sunni Muslim gunmen in Beirut on Monday, medical and security sources said, in the latest violence fuelled by tensions over the uprising against Syrian President Bashar Assad.
UN special coordinator for Lebanon Derek Plumbly also voiced concern about the fighting and called on all the parties to stop fighting. "Differences must be addressed through dialogue, not resort to violence," he said in a statement.
UN spokesman Farhan Haq told reporters in New York that Plumbly was in contact with all parties in Lebanon's government, which would include the pro-Syrian Shiite Muslim movement Hizbollah.
Many of Lebanon's Sunni Muslims sympathise with the Sunni-led uprising in Syria against Assad, whose father sent forces into Lebanon during its 1975-1990 civil war. The Syrian army finally pulled out in 2005 under international pressure.
But Assad retains powerful allies in Lebanon, including Hizbollah and its pro-Syrian Christian partners in Prime Minister Najib Mikati's government.
The UN has a peacekeeping force in Lebanon in the Hizbollah stronghold south of the Litani River. Asked about a possible redeployment of the force, known as UNIFIL, in light of the recent violence, Haq said it would need to change its UN Security Council mandate to deploy north of the Litani.
"We're not looking at that for the time being," he said.
Last week, Syria's UN Ambassador Bashar Jaafari sent a letter to Ban and UN Security Council accusing some Lebanese factions of "incubating" Al Qaeda and the Muslim Brotherhood and helping them to take root along the Syrian border in order to launch attacks on Syria.
He also accused Turkey and Libya of arming Syria's opposition, which forces loyal to Assad have tried unsuccessfully for more than a year to crush.
In comments that appeared to bolster the Syrian government's complaints about foreign militants, Ban said last week that he believed Al Qaeda was responsible for two suicide car bombs that killed at least 55 people in Syria last week. But the United Nations later said that there was no hard evidence for the charge.
Lebanon has had a complicated relationship with Syria, which continues to exercise some influence over its neighbour despite the 2005 departure of thousands of Syrian troops and intelligence operatives from Lebanese soil.
The United Nations is deploying up to 300 unarmed military observers to monitor a truce agreed upon in Syria that has yet to take hold.