Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

National and World

October 31, 2012

Syrian jets pound rebel strongholds across country

BEIRUT (AP) — Syrian warplanes pounded opposition strongholds around Damascus and in the north Wednesday as President Bashar Assad's forces intensified airstrikes following the failure of a U.N.-backed cease-fire, activists said.

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, which gathers reports from a network of activists on the ground, said government jets carried out five strikes in the eastern Ghouta district, a rebel stronghold close to the capital.

Three airstrikes also hit the rebel-held city of Maaret al-Numan, which straddles a key supply route from Damascus to Aleppo and has become a main front in the civil war.

No casualties were reported in Wednesday's strikes, the Observatory said.

However, at least 185 people were killed nationwide in airstrikes and artillery shelling the day before, pushing the total death toll since the conflict began in March 2011 to over 36,000, according to the Observatory's president Rami Abdul-Rahman. At least 47 soldiers were also killed Tuesday, the Observatory said.

Syria's crisis began as a peaceful uprising against Assad's regime inspired by the Arab Spring, but it quickly morphed into a civil war.

The international community remains at a loss about how to stop the war. A temporary truce timed to coincide with a major Muslim holiday last week failed to take hold as more than 500 people were killed in fighting during the four day period.

The U.S. and other Western and Arab nations have called on Assad to step down, while Russia, China and Iran continue to back him.

The U.N.-Arab League envoy to Syria, Lakhdar Brahimi, met Wednesday with China's Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi to solicit Beijing's support for international efforts to stop the bloodshed.

Brahimi said he hoped "China can play an active role in solving the events in Syria."

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