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Syrian troops savour victory in fallen rebel bastion

On the main square of the former rebel bastion of Yabrud, three exhausted Syrian soldiers sit by a sculpture painted in the colours of the revolt savouring their hard-fought victory. "It was a very difficult battle, possibly the most difficult we have faced," a soldier who gave his name as Abu Mohammed told AFP between puffs on a water pipe. He said snipers had made it perilous for troops backed by fighters from the Lebanese Shiite movement Hezbollah as they advanced through the streets.

Jihadists 'execute' at least 22 in Syria

Jihadists from the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant "executed" at least 22 people, including 12 rebels, in the north of the country Tuesday, a monitoring group said. "ISIL members executed at least 22 persons with firearms or knives, after taking control of Shuyukh outside the town of Jarabulus" in Aleppo province, Rami Abdel Rahman, head of the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, told AFP. Among those killed were "at least 12 armed rebels," he said. ISIL seized Jarabulus, near the northern border with Turkey, from the rebels last month.

Jihadists 'execute' at least 22 in Syria

Jihadists from the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant "executed" Tuesday at least 22 persons, among them 12 rebels, in the north of the country, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said. "ISIL members executed at least 22 persons with firearms or knives, after taking control of Shuyukh outside the town of Jarabulus" in Aleppo province, Observatory Rami Abdel Rahman told AFP. Among those killed were "at least 12 armed rebels," he said. kam/feb/al

Rebel Free Syrian army confirms new chief

The rebel Free Syrian Army has confirmed the appointment of its new chief, Brigadier General Abdel Ilah al-Bashir, after former head General Selim Idriss had initially refused to step down. The FSA confirmed "the dismissal of Idriss and the appointment of... Bashir as head of the Supreme Military Council," in a statement late on Friday. Bashir, who defected from the government army to join rebels fighting in southern Syria, had originally been appointed to head the FSA in mid-February.

Syria opposition National Council to rejoin Coalition

The opposition Syrian National Council said Friday it will rejoin the umbrella coalition from which it withdrew in protest at the Geneva peace talks with the regime. The SNC, the biggest bloc in Syria's opposition-in-exile, quit the National Coalition on January 20 because of its participation in the talks. But on Friday, the group said it had decided "on the return of the SNC bloc and all its components to the ranks of the ... Coalition," at a two-day meeting of its general assembly in Istanbul.

Syrian army readies ground assault on Yabrud

Syria's army is preparing an assault on a key rebel bastion near Damascus, a pro-regime newspaper said Thursday, as the opposition reported a "massacre" of civilians near Damascus. "The Syrian army is preparing to launch a new phase" on the town of Yabrud near the border with Lebanon in its offensive in the Qalamun mountains, Al-Watan reported. It said troops loyal to President Bashar al-Assad have seized control of two strategic hills near Yabrud, which has been the target of heavy air raids and tank fire since early February.

Syrian army readies ground assault on Yabrud

Syria's army is preparing an assault on a key rebel bastion near Damascus, a pro-regime newspaper said Thursday, as the opposition reported a "massacre" of civilians near Damascus. "The Syrian army is preparing to launch a new phase" on the town of Yabrud near the border with Lebanon in its offensive in the Qalamun mountains, Al-Watan reported. It said troops loyal to President Bashar al-Assad have seized control of two strategic hills near Yabrud, which has been the target of heavy air raids and tank fire since early February.

Turkish foreign minister says world has failed Syria

By Samia Nakhoul and Nick Tattersall ANKARA (Reuters) - Turkey's foreign minister said Syria's worsening war now posed a danger to all countries because President Bashar al-Assad's government had been allowed to continue its "crimes" while jihadists from around the world flooded in to fight him. Ahmet Davutoglu told Reuters a robust international strategy including "real intelligence cooperation" and withdrawal of all foreign fighters was needed to end the conflict and help millions of Syrians devastated by violence.

Syria says UN aid resolution must respect 'sovereignty'

Syria said Sunday it is ready to cooperate with a rare UN Security Council resolution to allow humanitarian access, so long as it respects "state sovereignty." The foreign ministry also said in its statement that the "root causes" of the humanitarian crisis must be treated, singling out "foreign-backed terrorism" and sanctions placed on President Bashar al-Assad's regime by Western and Arab countries.

Russia's Lavrov says US Syria policy aids 'terrorism'

America's Syria policy encourages the financing and supply of "terrorist organisations," Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said Thursday during a visit to Iraq. US policy "encourages extremists who are financing terrorism and supplying terrorist organisations and groups with weapons," Lavrov said in remarks translated from Russian into Arabic. "In the end, this will not result in anything except the escalation of the Syrian conflict," he said at a joint news conference with Iraqi Foreign Minster Hoshyar Zebari.
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