Syrian Forces Pound Aleppo, Damascus

Posted August 25th, 2012 at 10:10 am (UTC-5)
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Activists say Syrian forces with tanks and combat helicopters have launched fresh raids in Aleppo and suburban Damascus in a bid to crush rebels.

The opposition Syrian Observatory for Human Rights says about 40 people – most of them civilians – died in anti-government related unrest across Syria Saturday.

President Bashar al-Assad has blamed foreign-backed terrorists for much of the violence that has gripped his nation for the past 18 months. On Saturday, the state-run SANA news agency said armed forces killed an unspecified number of “terrorists” in Aleppo and destroyed seven vehicles equipped with machine guns.

A VOA reporter who has been monitoring developments in Syria says the situation is becoming more brutal and gruesome. However, he says activists are having an increasingly difficult time getting video and information out of the country because Internet service is cut off in most regions, and little or no electricity is available to recharge electronic devices.

Western powers have urged Mr. Assad to resign, but the Syrian leader continues to get support from Iran. On Saturday, an Iranian delegation visiting Syrian lawmakers in Damascus reaffirmed Tehran's support.

The Associated Press quotes Iran's ambassador to Syria as saying that calls for reforms in Syria have been “masked by plots carried out by enemies.”

In another development, General Babacar Gaye, the head of a now-defunct team of U.N. observers, left Damascus on Saturday.

The observers had been deployed to Syria as part of former U.N.-Arab League envoy Kofi Annan's six-point plan to supervise a truce that never took place. The mission officially ended last Sunday.

The U.N. will instead maintain a political liaison office in Damascus to support the mediation efforts of Mr. Annan's successor, veteran Algerian diplomat Lakhdar Brahimi.