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Syrian army seizes ancient Christian town near Lebanese border

BEIRUT (Reuters) - Syrian soldiers backed by Hezbollah fighters recaptured on Monday the town of Maaloula, north of Damascus, military sources and state television said, closing off more of the rebel supply route through the Qalamoun mountains near Lebanon. Islamist fighters, some from the al Qaeda-linked Nusra Front, took over a quarter of the ancient Christian town in December and held several nuns captive. In March, the nuns were released in an exchange deal with Qatari and Lebanese mediation.

Syrian opposition leader to visit China

BEIJING (Reuters) - Syrian opposition leader Ahmad Jarba will lead a delegation to China this week and meet the country's foreign minister, the government said on Monday, in Beijing's latest effort at mediation in the crisis. China and its ally Russia have vetoed Western efforts to impose U.N. penalties on Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. But China has been keen to show it is not taking sides and has urged the Syrian government to talk to the opposition and take steps to meet demands for political change.

Syria's Assad says war turning in his favor

By Mariam Karouny BEIRUT (Reuters) - President Bashar al-Assad said on Sunday that Syria's three-year conflict was at a "turning point" due to his forces' military gains against rebels, state media said. Assad's allies have portrayed him as confident and in control and they expect him to run for and win a presidential election in July - a turnaround from last year when he looked on the verge of defeat as rebels advanced towards Damascus, struck in the heart of the capital and took control of key areas.

Syria's Assad says war turning in regime's favour

President Bashar al-Assad said Sunday that the war that has torn Syria apart for three years and cost more than 150,000 lives is turning in the government's favour, state news agency SANA reported. "This is a turning point in the crisis, both militarily in terms of the army's achievements in the war against terror, and socially in terms of national reconciliation processes and growing awareness of the truth behind the (attacks) targeting the country," he said.

Hezbollah confident in Assad, West resigned to Syria stalemate

By Samia Nakhoul and Laila Bassam BEIRUT (Reuters) - Bashar al-Assad's Lebanese ally Hezbollah said his Western foes must now accept he will go on ruling Syria after fighting rebels to a standstill - a "reality" to which his foreign enemies seem increasingly resigned.

Twin car bombs in Syria's Homs kill at least 21 people

BEIRUT (Reuters) - At least 21 people including women and children were killed by twin car bombs in the central Syrian city of Homs on Wednesday, a monitoring group and state media said. The explosions went off in the Karam al-Loz area of Homs, the British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said, and the death toll was expected to rise because over 100 people were wounded, some seriously.

Twin car bombs kill 25 in Syria's Homs: state media

Two car bombs killed at least 25 people, including women and children, in a government-held neighbourhood of Syria's central city of Homs Wednesday, state news agency SANA reported. Another 100 people were wounded in Karam al-Luz, in attacks SANA blamed on "terrorists," the government's term for people fighting to overthrow President Bashar al-Assad. "Twenty-five people fell as martyrs, including women and children, and more than 107 others were wounded after the explosion of the two car bombs" a half-hour apart, SANA said.

Twin car bombs kill 25 in Syria's Homs: state media

Two car bombs killed at least 25 people, including women and children, in a government-held neighbourhood of Syria's central city of Homs Wednesday, state news agency SANA reported. Another 100 people were wounded in Karam al-Luz, in attacks SANA blamed on "terrorists," the government's term for people fighting to overthrow President Bashar al-Assad. "Twenty-five people fell as martyrs, including women and children, and more than 107 others were wounded after the explosion of the two car bombs" a half-hour apart, SANA said.

Assad's forces advance into rebel border town

BEIRUT (Reuters) - Forces loyal to President Bashar al-Assad advanced into the rebel-held Syrian border town of Rankous on Wednesday, consolidating their control over a former rebel supply line from neighboring Lebanon. The assault on Rankous is the latest stage of an offensive by the army and Hezbollah fighters to seal off the border region and secure the main highway leading north from Damascus towards central Syria, Homs, and the Mediterranean coast.

Pope expresses 'profound pain' at killing of priest in Syria

VATICAN CITY (Reuters) - Pope Francis spoke on Wednesday of his deep grief over the assassination of a 75-year-old Dutch Jesuit priest in Syria and made a renewed appeal for an end to the violence. Frans van der Lugt had been living in Syria since the 1970s and had become widely known for his refusal to leave Christians who remained in the rebel-held city of Homs as it was blockaded by government forces. He was beaten and shot dead by unidentified gunmen at his monastery on Monday.
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