At least 120 dead in Syrian fighting; airstrikes near Damascus

At least 120 dead in Syrian fighting; airstrikes near Damascus

At least another 120 people were killed in fighting across Syria on Thursday, opposition groups, including at least 53 soldiers killed in rebel attacks on military checkpoints, Trend reports.

Of the total, 38 were killed in the northern province of Idlib, near the Syrian-Turkish border, which has emerged as the scene of fierce fighting between President Bashar al-Assad's troops and rebels in recent weeks, reported the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

The death toll in Syria has continued to ratchet up all week, following the largely unsuccessful ceasefire over the weekend, as both sides seem prepared to carry on with the conflict, which has claimed at least 36,000 lives since March 2011.

Government airstrikes continued around the south and east of the capital as the focus of the fight between pro-government forces and rebels continues to move towards Damascus.

"The planes are dropping barrels of (explosive) TNT on residential areas," Haytham al-Abdullah, a Syrian activist based in Damascus, told dpa.

Five civilians, including two children, died in the airstrikes, said Syrian activists. At least 10 were injured.

In the north-west of the country at least five rebels were killed in fighting with troops near the city of Saraqeb, said the Observatory.

Syrian television reported that the army was carrying out raids on suspected hideouts of people the broadcaster called "terrorists" around Damascus and in the northern provinces of Aleppo and Idlib.

China meanwhile unveiled an initiative to end the 20-month conflict in Syria.

A spokesman for the Chinese Foreign Ministry told reporters the initiative included a region-by-region ceasefire and establishing a transitional governing body.

China apparently made the proposal to the international peace envoy Lakhdar Brahimi during his talks in Beijing this week.

"China's position on the Syrian issue is consistent. The new proposal is an extension of China's efforts to push forward a political resolution," the spokesman added.

China and Russia, both allies of al-Assad's regime, have vetoed three Western-and Arab-backed resolutions at the UN Security Council condemning the Syrian regime for the violence.

Brahimi arrived in Cairo on Thursday for talks with the head of the Arab League, Nabil al-Arabi, on the outcome of his visits to China and Russia earlier this week.

The pan-Arab organization said Brahimi and al-Arabi would meet with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov in Cairo on Sunday for talks on Syria.

Estimates of fatalities cannot be independently verified because of press restrictions in Syria.


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