HAMA- International and local press also reported Wednesday too that Christian priest from the Greek Orthodox Church, the Rev. Basilious Nasser, was shot and killed on the second day of heavy fighting in the city of Hama.
The Syrian state news agency blamed an “armed terrorist group” for the killing, while opposition activists in Hama said the priest was shot by a government sniper.
The Local Coordination Committees of Syria (LCC), an umbrella opposition group, identified the priest as Basilious Nassar of the nearby town of Kafr Buhum. He died as militia members pushed into various neighborhoods in Hama, a bastion of Syria's anti-regime sentiment, according to the LCC.
The LCC said 24 people were killed nationwide on Wednesday, including six from the Free Syrian Army, a group of defectors from the country's armed forces who have taken up arms against the al-Assad regime. At least four died in Hama, another four in Homs and five in the Damascus suburbs, the group said.
In Hama, four people died on the second day of a government bombardment, LCC said.
One of them was a Christian priest, Father Bassilius Nassar, who was helping a wounded man.
In Homs, a woman and her five-year-old child reportedly died when a shell hit their home during clashes between troops and men believed to be defecting soldiers.
But LCC said the priest was "martyred" during "a military campaign conducted by the regime's forces".
The Syrian regime blames "terrorist gangs", saying they are part of an international conspiracy against Syria, for unrest that has swept the country since mid-March 2011.
SANA reported Wednesday “Five Law Enforcement Personnel martyred by gunfire of armed Terrorist Group in Apamea Town, Three Law-Enforcement Members Injured, Priest Basilious Nassar assassinated by armed terrorist groups in Hama, and another armed group kills a man aged 96 and his wife in Homs.”
“Terrorist group burglarizes a warehouse for Retail Establishment in Hama, and other terrorist members caught and weapons seized in Hama.” SANA added.
The UN said in early December that more than 5,000 people had died in the Syrian unrest.
Speaking on her way into a Security Council briefing, the UN human rights chief Navi Pillay said more people had been killed since then but her office had not updated the death toll because of difficulties getting information.
"We are experiencing difficulties now because of the fragmentation on the ground," she said.
"Some areas are totally closed, such as parts of Homs, so we are unable to update that figure. But in my view 5,000 and more is a huge figure and should really shock the international community into taking action."
As the fighting in Syria continues, diplomats at the UN say European and Arab nations are meeting to try to draft a new UN resolution to address the crisis.
A previous attempt was blocked by Russia and China, and on Wednesday Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said he was open to "constructive proposals" to end the violence. But he reiterated his opposition to the use of force or sanctions.