More high profile defections from the Baath Party over the last two days have weakened Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad even as the world is keenly watching how the opposition’s planned ‘day of rage’ will unfold today.

The Los Angeles Times quoted a resident of the town of Dara as saying that an entire army unit, either a division or brigade, had broken ranks with the official forces. However, Syrian state media have rubbished reports of military defections as untrue.

More Baath Party members from the Dara region, the nerve center of the opposition's move against Assad's rule, have resigned from the party. Scores have been killed in this opposition stronghold ever since the regime intensified crackdown on the protesters a month ago.

Security officials clearly abused peaceful and unarmed protesters. This ruthless violation and oppression of citizens has never been something the Baath Party stood for, a former Baath Party loyalist from the town of Baniyas told the LA Times.

More than forty people have been killed in Dara this week alone, according to the residents. Journalists are barred from entering the fighting hot spots. Residents said Syrian armed forces, led by Assad's brother Maher, unleashed violence in the city in a bid to quell anti-government protests. They said the latest use of force exasperated the plight of civilians reeling from acute shortages of food and fuel.

In Homs, Libya's third largest city, heavy use of force has reportedly killed many protesters. A video uploaded on the Internet on Thursday showed armed forces opening fire on a crowd.

Meanwhile, international criticism of Assad's violent crackdown of pro-democracy agitations intensified. Officials from the European Union will meet on Friday in Brussels to discuss possible new sanctions against the Syrian regime. Also, the United Nations Human rights Council is scheduled to meet in Geneva to urgently discuss the escalating Syrian situation.