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October 16, 2012

Syrian Warplanes Shell Town Seized by Rebels

by VOA News

Syrian activists say government warplanes have shelled a strategic town seized by rebels last week, while the Syrian army clashed with opposition fighters outside the capital.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights and the Local Coordination Committees reported the shelling Tuesday in the Maaret al-Numan area.  The northern town is strategically located in Idlib province along the main highway between Damascus and Aleppo.  Meanwhile, fierce clashes were reported Tuesday on the outskirts of Damascus.

The fighting continues amid international warnings that the situation in Syria is worsening.

In a statement Monday, United Nations-Arab League envoy for Syria Lakhdar Brahimi said the 19-month crisis in Syria is "getting worse every day" and there is an urgent need to stop the bloodshed.

He called for Iran's help in establishing a cease-fire during the Muslim holiday Eid al-Adha, which begins next week.

Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki reiterated calls for quick progress in resolving the Syrian conflict, after meeting Brahimi in Baghdad.

In New York, U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice told the Security Council that what she called the "horrifying" situation in Syria is getting worse, and that assaults by Syrian forces are only making the opposition stronger.

She also said the conflict is a threat to regional security, posing "real challenges" to Syria's neighbors.

In another recent development, Turkish authorities forced an Armenian plane bound for the Syrian city of Aleppo to land in order to inspect its cargo.  Turkish officials said the plane was carrying humanitarian aid and was allowed to continue on its journey after the inspection.

Last week, Turkey intercepted a Syrian passenger plane en route from Moscow to Damascus and confiscated what they said were military supplies on board.

Ankara has accused Damascus of using civilian airliners to bring in weapons for Syrian troops, and has vowed to prevent Turkish airspace from being used for such purposes.

Turkey has been one of the main regional supporters of the Syrian rebels trying to end Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's 12-year rule.