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Published: Wednesday, 9/18/2013

Battles rage in Syria ahead of talks at the United Nations

REUTERS

BEIRUT -- Syrian warplanes struck rebel-held areas and clashes between militants and government forces continued unabated today, residents and opposition groups said, while key powers met to forge a deal that would eliminate Syrian chemical weapons.

Activists said President Bashar al-Assad's air force hit the neighborhood of Berze, a northeastern part of central Damascus, where rebels are trying to push further into the city.

Air strikes and skirmishes are countrywide but the key fight is in the capital, where Assad controls central districts but has lost suburbs.

Diplomats from five nations will continue talks today in New York on a Western-drafted U.N. Security Council resolution to take over, with Syrian cooperation, and then destroy Syrian chemical weapons. But Russia rejects Western assertions that Assad's forces, and not rebel groups, carried out an Aug. 21 poison gas attack.

The British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, which says it provides objective information about casualties on both sides of Syria's war from a network of monitors, reported violence in nearly every province.

It said war planes hit parts of southern Deraa province where the revolt started and that rebels and government forces clashed in the major cities of Homs, Deir al-Zor and Aleppo.

In Idlib province, which borders Turkey, the Observatory cited activists as reporting the killing and burning of 11 civilians by the army. Reuters cannot confirm reports due to security and reporting restrictions.

It said that in the northeast, near the border with Turkey, Kurdish militants had captured the village of Alok from an al-Qaeda linked group after four days of intense battles in one of Syria's numerous localized conflicts.



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