At least 25 people died in violence sweeping across Syria on Saturday, most of them in a battle between troops and a growing force of army defectors who have joined the movement to oust the autocratic president, activists said.
The worst violence took place in the restive northwestern city of Idlib.
The predawn clashes between regime forces and defectors resulted in the deaths of seven soldiers and policemen, as well as five defectors and three civilians, according to the British-based group of Syrian activists called the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.
Elsewhere, security forces killed a civilian in the southern province of Daraa, six in the central region of Homs and three others in areas near Idlib, the observatory said.
The U.N.'s top human rights official said this week that Syria is in a state of civil war and that more than 4,000 people have been killed since March.
Economic and diplomatic sanctions by the United States, the European Union, Turkey and the 22-member Arab League have so far failed to blunt the turmoil.
Meanwhile, Arab League ministers meeting in Gulf nation of Qatar on Saturday approved details of sanctions against Syria aimed at pressuring the regime to end its deadly eight-month crackdown on dissent.
The league formally agreed on a list of 19 Syrian officials — among them Cabinet ministers and security officers — who will be barred entry from fellow Arab nations in the 22-member bloc. Syrian President Bashar Assad is not on the list.
Among the measures, transactions with the Syrian central bank will be suspended, Arab government funding for projects in Syria halted, and flights between Syria and its Arab neighbors will stop Dec. 15.