At least 50 people were killed today in fighting between forces loyal to Syrian President Bashar al- Assad and rebels as the death toll passed 40,000, according to activists.
Government forces shelled the towns of Hamouriya and Arbaeen around Damascus, according to Al Arabiya television. The channel also reported heavy clashes in the Damascus district of Kfar Sousa. Syrian forces are bombarding towns and villages in the provinces of Dara’a, Hama and Idlib, the opposition Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.
The U.K.-based Observatory also said a suicide bomber detonated a car-bomb by a checkpoint near the military residential compound in the city of Idlib, killing three soldiers and injuring 15 others, some seriously.
The violence came as the speaker of Iran’s parliament, Ali Larijani, met with Assad in the capital, according to the Associated Press. Iran is Assad’s strongest ally in the region.
Separately, Russia warned Turkey not to deploy Patriot missile batteries along its border with Syria after the Turkish government asked the North Atlantic Treaty Organization for the surface-to-air defense systems. Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov discussed Turkey’s plans with NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen and offered to set up a “direct line” of communication between Ankara and Damascus to avoid incidents.
Speaking by phone today, Lavrov reiterated to Rasmussen “Russia’s concerns over plans to build up military capacity in the region,” according to a statement published by the Foreign Ministry in Moscow.
More than 130 people died yesterday, bringing to more than 40,000 the number killed since the uprising against Assad began in March 2011, the Syrian Observatory said on its Facebook page. More than 28,000 casualties were civilians and rebel fighters, the group said.
Russia will host a delegation of Syrian opposition groups in Moscow next week, the Interfax news agency reported today, citing Lavrov.
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