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Blast, Fighting Near Damascus Kills 16 Syrian Soldiers

  • VOA News

A Syrian activist group says at least 16 soldiers have been killed in a suicide car bombing and ensuing clashes with rebels just outside Damascus .

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights says the suicide attack Saturday was carried out by the al-Qaida-linked Nusra Front.

The blast went off at a checkpoint between the rebel-held area of Mleha and the pro-government town of Jaramana, which is populated by Christians and Druze.

Syria's state-run SANA news agency also reported the blast and said there were casualties, and says there has been no immediate claim of responsibility.

UN Aid Chief Makes Plea

The United Nations’ top humanitarian official is urging both sides in the Syrian civil war to allow aid workers access to thousands of civilians trapped in one of several besieged suburbs ringing the capital, Damascus.

Valerie Amos on Saturday called for an “immediate pause in hostilities” to allow access for medical and other rescue personnel into Moadhamiya. Government troops have laid siege to the mostly rebel-held town for months.

Last week, more than 3,000 civilians, mostly women and children, were able to leave Moadhamiya in a deal brokered between government and opposition representatives. But the U.N. official said Saturday that “the same number or more remain trapped” in the community, which has been the frequent target of shelling and clashes.

In another sign of Syria's growing misery, the World Health Organization said it had detected two possible cases of polio in the eastern Deir Ezzor province. If confirmed, they would be the country's first known cases since 1999.

Meanwhile, world leaders continued to push for a peace conference in Geneva next month.

The U.N.-Arab League envoy for Syria, Lakhdar Brahimi, on Saturday met with Egyptian Foreign Minister Nabil Fahmy and is due to hold talks with Arab League chief Nabil al-Arabi on Sunday.

In other news, a Syrian activist group said at least 16 soldiers were killed in a suicide car bombing and ensuing clashes with rebels outside Damascus.

Meanwhile, nine Lebanese pilgrims abducted in Syria and two Turkish pilots held hostage in Lebanon returned home Saturday night, part of an ambitious three-way deal cutting across the Syrian civil war.

The conflict in Syria has killed more than 100,000 people and displaced millions more since it began in March 2011.

Some information for this report was provided by AP, AFP and Reuters.

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