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Syria Begins New Year With More Violence

Residents walk past a damaged emergency vehicle in Aleppo, Syria, January 1, 2013.
Syrian government troops and rebel forces fought Tuesday on the outskirts of Damascus and near the city of Aleppo.

Government aircraft pounded eastern suburbs of the capital and rebel-held areas of Aleppo, the country's commercial hub.

Authorities announced the closure of Aleppo airport because of rebel attacks. The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported heavy fighting around the base of Syrian army Brigade 80, part of the airport protection force.

Anti-government activists also reported heavy fighting in the Damascus suburb of Daraya, with bombing by Syrian warplanes. Syria's government-run media said troops killed "tens of terrorists" in Daraya and nearby areas.

Syrian rebels are trying to oust President Bashar al-Assad. Activists say 45,000 people have been killed in the conflict that began with peaceful anti-government protests in March 2011.

On Monday, Syria's Prime Minister Wael al-Halaqi said the government was open to talks aimed at solving the conflict. He was responding to U.N.-Arab League envoy Lakhdar Brahimi, who said Sunday he has a plan that is acceptable to world powers.

Brahimi said the plan calls for all sides in Syria to end hostilities, enter into a national dialogue, and form a transitional government leading to new elections. But the plan says nothing about the fate of President Assad, an omission that appears to have stalled its progress.