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Syrian army retakes key post in regime bastion Latakia

Syrian army troops recaptured on Monday a key position in coastal Latakia province, a regime bastion, state television said, as rebels press a campaign in the region. "Syrian army units have full control of Observatory 45 in the north of Latakia province and are continuing to pursue terrorist groups," the state broadcaster said, citing the military. Observatory 45 is a strategic hilltop that overlooks several areas inhabited by residents from the Alawite community, the religious sect to which President Bashar al-Assad belongs.

Syria rebels lick their wounds in Lebanon border town

Young Syrian rebel commander Mohammed limps from an injury suffered in "insane" army shelling of his native Qalamun region as he tells of his perilous evacuation across the border into Lebanon. Mohammed, who gave only one name, is being treated in the small border town of Arsal, which has turned into a refuge for more than 100,000 Syrians fleeing the war in their country and a makeshift rehabilitation centre for scores of wounded fighters.

Syrian forces take two villages near Lebanon

BEIRUT (Reuters) - Syrian forces took control of two villages near the Lebanese border on Saturday after driving out rebels, state media said, helping President Bashar al-Assad secure the route connecting Damascus with Aleppo and the Mediterranean coast. The fall of Flita and Ras Maara, two of the last rebel bastions in the area, is likely to push militants and refugees over the border into Lebanon, risking further destabilizing the Mediterranean country whose own 15-year civil war ended in 1990.

U.N. urges end to Syria's 'convoluted' aid restrictions

By Louis Charbonneau UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) - The United Nations humanitarian chief Valerie Amos on Friday urged Syria's government to end needless restrictions on access to areas where besieged Syrians are in desperate need of aid after three years of civil war. She also voiced concern about opposition groups, especially those such as al Qaeda-linked extremist al Nusra, which has said it will not allow foreigners to operate in Syria.

Syria says won't be swayed by Arab summit

Syria on Wednesday sharply criticised an Arab summit declaration that condemned "massacres" by its forces and reaffirmed support for the opposition National Coalition. State news agency SANA said nothing would change "the clear decision by the Syrian state to protect its people against terrorism and to face up to it forcefully and firmly". President Bashar al-Assad's regime refers to dissidents and rebels alike in the war-torn country as foreign-backed "terrorists".

As Assad advances, Syria launches commercial airline

By Oliver Holmes BEIRUT (Reuters) - A new Syrian airline plans to start flights from the war-torn country in May, a company manager told Reuters on Wednesday, following months of gains on the battlefield by forces loyal to President Bashar al-Assad. The launch of Kinda Airlines, a private company, illustrates how Assad has been able - in part - to weather the three-year conflict, securing the capital and areas of the Mediterranean coast even as rebels advance in the north and east.

Police raid suspected militants in Istanbul, five wounded

ISTANBUL (Reuters) - Turkish special forces raided buildings in Istanbul used by suspected members of an Islamist militant group active in neighboring Syria and Iraq late on Monday, leaving three policemen and two suspects wounded, police said. The five - including a man and a woman thought to belong to the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) - were hit after people in the buildings opened fire on security forces, police added.

U.S. says U.N. report lays blame on Syria government for hindered aid

By Louis Charbonneau UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) - A U.N. report on how Syria's neediest civilians are often not accessible to humanitarian relief workers makes it clear that the government of President Bashar al-Assad shoulders most of the blame, a U.S. official said on Tuesday.

Arms for Syria war dominate Arab summit debate

Syria's opposition called for "sophisticated" arms at an Arab summit in Kuwait Tuesday while Saudi Arabia said the military balance needed to change to "end the impasse" in Syria's civil war. But UN-Arab League peace envoy Lakhdar Brahimi insisted on the need for a "political solution" to the three-year conflict, urging an "end to the supply of arms to all parties." Opposition Syrian National Coalition chief Ahmed Jarba repeated calls on the international community to supply rebels with "sophisticated weapons" as the two-day summit opened.

Syria opposition calls for 'sophisticated' arms

Syria's opposition chief urged Arab leaders Tuesday to pressure the international community to supply rebels with advanced weapons that would tip the balance of power on the ground. Addressing the Arab summit in Kuwait, National Coalition chief Ahmed Jarba also urged Arabs to give Syria's Arab League seat to the opposition and hand them Syria's embassies in their countries. In his address, Jarba called on Arab leaders to "pressure the international community to commit to its promises to supply sophisticated weapons to our revolutionaries".
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