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13 dead as Syria planes hit rebel bastions near Damascus

Syrian warplanes on Sunday launched an offensive against a string of opposition bastions on the edges of the capital, including the besieged Eastern Ghouta area, a monitoring group said. "Warplanes carried out two air strikes against areas of Douma," northeast of Damascus, killing 13 people, including three women and three children, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.

Warily, Lebanon tackles violent spillover from Syria

By Alexander Dziadosz TRIPOLI, Lebanon (Reuters) - For two weeks now, the rifles have been silent along Syria Street in Lebanon's Tripoli, an area shot up so often that even memorial posters of men killed just a few months ago are speckled with bullet holes. Soldiers patrol quiet streets where gunmen used to fight day and night - part of the Lebanese authorities' most serious effort yet to contain spillover from Syria's civil war since the three-year-old conflict began in its much larger neighbor.

In Assad's coastal heartland, Syria's war creeps closer

LATAKIA, Syria (Reuters) - For three years, residents of Syria's Mediterranean provinces have watched from their coastal sanctuary as civil war raging further inland tore the country apart, killing tens of thousands of people and devastating historic cities. But a three-week-old offensive by rebel fighters in the north of Latakia province, a bastion of President Bashar al-Assad's Alawite minority, has brought the battle ever closer and shattered that sense of relative security.

Iraqis in resort town face return to Anbar unrest

When fighting erupted in Iraq's Anbar province in December, Abu Mohammed fled with his family to a virtually empty summer resort far to the north to take advantage of its off-season rates and wait out the conflict. But high season is about to begin in Shaqlawa, nestled beneath the Safin Mountains nearly 1,000 metres (3,280 feet) up, a place where Iraqis seek to escape scorching summer temperatures. So naturally, hoteliers and landlords are starting to raise their rates.

'Poison' attack on central Syria town

A regime air strike in Hama province of central Syria caused "suffocation and poisoning", an NGO said Saturday, while state media accused rebels of releasing chlorine gas. Elsewhere, fighting raged all day in Aleppo near an air force intelligence base, with the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights labelling it "the most violent since the beginning of the battle" in the northern city in mid-2012. And a bomb blast and shelling in areas of Damascus killed four people, the official news agency SANA reported.

Syrians trade blame over 'poison' attack on town

Syrian state television and medical sources in central Hama province swapped accusations Saturday over an attack that reportedly caused "suffocation and poisoning" of residents. Medics quoted by the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights NGO said people choking from poisoning had been hospitalised after air raids with barrel bombs Friday on the town of Kafr Zita. "Regime planes bombed Kafr Zita with explosive barrels that produced thick smoke and odours and led to cases of suffocation and poisoning," Observatory director Rami Abdel Rahman said.

'Fiercest' fighting in Syria's Aleppo since mid-2012

Syrian troops battled rebels around a military intelligence base in Aleppo in what a monitoring group said Saturday was the fiercest fighting in the northern metropolis since mid-2012. Syrian Observatory for Human Rights director Rami Abdel Rahman said the overnight clashes were "the fiercest since the fighting began in Aleppo and the closest yet to the intelligence base in the Zahra neighbourhood."

Lebanon in vaccination drive against polio spreading from Syria

BEIRUT (Reuters) - Lebanon launched a fourth round of polio immunisation on Friday, trying to prevent the disease spreading from neighboring Syria along with the tide of refugees fleeing the three-year conflict. Protection against polio requires several vaccinations but aid workers are concerned that coverage in Lebanon has been falling off because parents were unaware of the need for multiple inoculation.

Iraq insurgents use water as weapon after seizing dam

FALLUJA, Iraq (Reuters) - Insurgents in Iraq have added water to their arsenal of weapons after seizing control of a dam in the west of the country that enables them to flood certain areas and prevent security forces from advancing against them. The dam helps distribute water from the Euphrates river on its course through the western province of Anbar, and is located some 5 km south of the city of Falluja, which was overrun by militants early this year.

Ship ready to destroy Syria's chemical arms at sea

By Fiona Ortiz ON BOARD THE CAPE RAY, Spain (Reuters) - Experts on board a cargo ship transformed into a multi-million dollar chemical weapons destroyer said on Thursday they were ready to start working on Syria's stock of toxic arms in the middle of the Mediterranean as early as May. Now they just have to hope the weather holds and Damascus delivers on time.
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