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Syrian Violence Spreads Again, Islamists Make Gains in North

Lebanese Army soldiers patrol the Sunni Muslim Bab al-Tebbaneh neighborhood in Tripoli, northern Lebanon, December 7, 2012.
Fighting in Syria has again spilled over the border into neighboring Lebanon while rebel forces aided by Islamist fighters appeared to make further gains in northern Syria.

Officials in Lebanon said Sunday running gun battles in the northern Lebanese city of Tripoli killed at least four people. The deadly violence pitted Sunni supporters of Syria's rebels in the Bab Tabbaneh neighborhood against Alawites loyal to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in the adjacent district of Jabal Mohsen.

Meanwhile, the Syrian president appeared to suffer another blow Sunday when nine judges and prosecutors defected to the opposition. The judges also made a plea on the Internet, urging others to break ranks with the Assad government.

Syrian government forces also lost ground near Aleppo, where Islamist fighters seized a regional command center. The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights says at least some of the fighters were with the group Jabhat al-Nusra, which is suspected of having ties to al-Qaida.

Some of the latest images coming out of Syria show more destruction and desperation.

Video posted on social media sites Sunday, said to have been recorded in Kfar Lata in Idlib province, shows a group of men trying to pull a body out from under a burning truck. Elsewhere, families are seen scurrying through the streets after what appears to be an aerial attack.

U.S. and Russian diplomats who met in Geneva Sunday with U.N. peace envoy Lakhdar Brahimi agreed that the situation in Syria is "bad and getting worse." They also said they believe a political solution is still possible.

Sunday's sit-down was a follow-up to a meeting last week between Brahimi, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov.

Washington wants Mr. Assad to quit and begin a transition to a democratic government, while Moscow opposes Western demands to impose regime change on the Syrian president, a longtime Russian ally.

Lavrov said Sunday Moscow's participation in the Geneva talks does not mean it has softened its position. He said Russia is not conducting any negotiations on the fate of Assad.

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

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