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Assad forces pound rebel bases; thousands of Kurds flee homes

BEIRUT: Syrian warplanes yesterday launched airstrikes on the eastern town of Albu Kamal near the Iraqi border and pounded rebel lines near Damascus and in the northern city of Aleppo, a watchdog said.
Fighting also raged early morning around the northeast town of Ras Al-Ain on the border with Turkey, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.
The Local Coordination Committees, a network of opposition activists on the ground likewise reported heavy shelling overnight by regime forces on rebel areas southwest of the capital and in the town of Yabrud to the north.
In the northern city of Aleppo, where fighting between rebels and government troops has raged since mid-July, mortars rained down on the rebel bastions of Shaar in the east, Sukari in the south and Halab Al-Jadida in the west, according to the Observatory.
Residents said fierce clashes erupted in the northwest districts of Zahraa and Liramun, where tanks fired on rebel positions, and in the embattled Old City.
In Ras Al-Ain on the Turkish border, thousands of Kurds fled as Syrian Army shelled their homes. Corpses of fighters were strewn along the streets.
With nothing but the clothes on their backs, grandparents, women and children rushed to the border and, when their numbers turned to thousands, Turkish soldiers opened the gates and offered them refuge.
Samira Rushi and her four children were among the thousands who left. Now they are living with 150 people, mostly neighbors from the predominantly Kurdish town, in a single home tucked away in a back alley in the Turkish town of Ceylanpinar.
From a neighbor’s rooftop, they can see Ras Al-Ain, nestled on a hillside in the distance. When night falls and they huddle together, sleeping 13 to a room, they are kept awake by the sound of artillery and gunfire.
“There were bodies on the ground, houses were destroyed and after that, we left. My home was destroyed in the shelling,” said Rushi. Now she worries about her husband and the other neighbors who stayed behind to look after their homes and “help anyway they can” to defeat Assad and the regime they despise.
Turkey has shouldered a huge burden of refugees. The latest exodus brings the number of registered Syrian refugees in the country to more than 120,000.
Samira and other refugees who spoke to AFP in Ceylanpinar spoke movingly of how Turkish soldiers granted them shelter.
“The soldiers opened the gate and said welcome and helped us very much,” said Amira Taboush, a mother of five children. “And the people in this area have helped us very much, they are Kurds,” she added.
In a separate development, security officials say shooting between Sunni and Shiite gunmen in southern Lebanon has killed one person and wounded at least three.
The officials say the clashes between followers of Sunni cleric Sheikh Ahmad Al-Assir and members of Hezbollah broke out after Shiite religious banners were raised in the port city of Sidon. Al-Assir’s bodyguard was killed in yesterday’s shooting and the wounded included a Hezbollah commander.

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