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Syria insists downed Turkish plane was 'not an attack'

This week NATO leaders will decide how to respond to Syria's downing of a Turkish jet, which Turkey argues was in international airspace.

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The deadliest incident was in the northern town of Ariha where a shell hit a home killing seven members of the same family, the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.  A video posted online showed the seven men's bodies, some badly mutilated, including one who had part of his head blown off.

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Activists also reported intense shelling and clashes between rebels and troops in the eastern city of Deir el-Zour and the central city of Homs, which has been under a government attack for the past two weeks.

Earlier Sunday, activists said rebels captured a military base in the northern Syrian province of Aleppo, confiscating large amounts of ammunition. The Observatory said 16 government troops died in the attacks on the base near the rebel-held town of Daret Azzeh and nearby checkpoints early Sunday.

Area activist Mohammed Saeed said the rebels had removed hundreds of artillery shells from the base. Saeed added via Skype that troops retaliated with intense shelling on the area using helicopter gunships.

On Friday, state media said 25 people were kidnapped by "terrorists" and killed in Daret Azzeh. Activists said the 25 killed were pro-regime gunmen known as shabiha.

Syria's state-run SANA news agency, meanwhile, said gunmen from Turkey clashed with Syrian border guards in Rabiah, a region in the coastal Latakia province. SANA said several infiltrators died in the late Saturday clash, while others reportedly returned to Turkey. It said several Syrian border guards were hurt, but didn't specify how many.

Turkey denies sheltering armed Syrian rebels, although many Syrian refugees have fled to camps on the Turkish side of the border.

Also on Sunday, Syrian opposition groups met in Brussels to hash out differences and plan for a democratic transition. The disparate groups are divided over whether outside military intervention would help or hurt and whether to engage in dialogue with Assad's regime. The conference, attended by some 50 people, will continue Monday.

Jordanian Information Minister Sameeh Maaytah, meanwhile, said Sunday that three other Syrian pilots had defected last week, even before a pilot flew his warplane into neighboring Jordan. He said the other three crossed overland into Jordan. He was unsure if the four pilots knew each other or had coordinated their escape from Syria.

Associated Press writers Bassem Mroue in Beirut, Don Melvin in Brussels, Frances D'Emilio in Rome and Jamal Halaby in Jordan contributed to this report.

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