Gunmen in Syria staged a guerrilla-style ambush that killed a senior state prosecutor and a judge on Sunday in an attack that suggested armed factions are growing bolder and more coordinated in their uprising against President Bashar Assad's regime.
The roadway slayings, reported in an opposition-dominated northern region by the Syrian state news agency, came a day after a deadly hit-and-run attack on a political figure in the heart of the pro-Assad city of Aleppo.
The targeted killings have not reached Assad's inner circle, but they indicate a growing shift toward violent tactics by the opposition as it brings aboard more military defectors and seeks to tighten control over the small pieces of territory in its hands.
The fears of a looming civil war have neighbouring Jordan racing to finish a refugee camp near the Syrian border to handle a possible exodus of people fleeing for safety.
Meanwhile, Egypt became the latest Arab nation to publicly snub Assad by ordering the withdrawal of its ambassador in Damascus.
The Syrian government has offered some concessions, including proposing a referendum next week that could allow more political voices to challenge Assad's Baath Party.
But the opposition demands nothing short of Assad's resignation. And the regime has not eased off its attacks on the opposition forces, which it describes as "terrorists" carrying out a foreign conspiracy to destabilise the country.
In Homs in central Syria, government forces sent in reinforcements as they shelled the rebel-held Baba Amr district that has been under near constant barrage for nearly two weeks, said the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. The group said at least 14 people were killed Sunday across Syria, half of them by government troops.
"I'm worried that Syria is going to slide into a civil war," British Foreign Secretary William Hague told the BBC today.
The UN last gave a death toll for the conflict in January, saying 5,400 people had been killed in 2011 alone. But hundreds more have been killed since, according to activist groups.
An opposition group, Local Coordination Committees, says more than 7,300 have been killed since the uprising began more than 11 months ago.