Syria launches airstrikes as fighting rages in Damascus

Updated 28 November 2012
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Syria launches airstrikes as fighting rages in Damascus

BEIRUT: Syrian aircraft attacked towns in the country’s north and east and killed at least five people in a strike on an olive oil press as fighting raged in the capital Damascus yesterday, opposition activists said.
Rebels battled government forces in the Damascus suburb of Kfar Souseh, on the edge of the center of the capital housing the government of President Bashar Assad, said the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a British-based monitoring group.
There was also combat in the Baba Amr district of Homs city, an area that was overrun by government troops in February, said the Observatory, as well as fighting in Aleppo, Deir Al-Zor, Daraa, Idlib province and Hama province.
A government jet fired barrel bombs — cylinders packed with explosives and petrol — at the Abu Hilal olive oil press, 2 km west of Idlib city, activist Tareq Abdelhaq said.
At least five people were killed and five wounded in the attack, the Observatory said. Abdelhaq said at least 20 were killed and 50 wounded.
The victims were civilians, according to activists, who acknowledged rebel fighters were in the area.
Such reports are difficult to verify as the government restricts access to foreign media.
Rebels have captured at least five army and air force installations in the past 10 days, putting pressure on Assad’s forces in the northern provinces of Aleppo and Idlib and the eastern oil region of Deir Al-Zor.

The opposition are calling for international military aid, particularly against air attacks, but Western powers who support the uprising are wary of radical Islamist units among the rebels.
The government also launched air strikes on the eastern city of Deir Al-Zor and on the strategic town of Maraat Al-Numan in Idlib province yesterday.
The rebel takeover of Maarat Al-Numan last month effectively cut the main north-south highway, a key route for Assad to move troops from the capital Damascus to Aleppo, Syria’s largest city where rebels have taken a foothold.
Most foreign powers have condemned Assad, and Britain, France and Gulf countries have recognized an umbrella opposition group, the Syrian National Coalition, as the sole representative of the Syrian people.
But Assad has been able to rely on his allies, especially regional powerhouse Iran, to withstand the international assault. Russia and China have also vetoed three United Nations Security Council resolutions that condemn Assad.
Nonprofit news website ProPublica reported yesterday that Russia sent 240 tons of banks notes to Damascus this summer. US and European sanctions include a ban on minting Syrian banknotes.


Tunisia reopens consulate in Libyan capital Tripoli

Updated 30 min 21 sec ago
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Tunisia reopens consulate in Libyan capital Tripoli

  • Most embassies left Tripoli in 2014 when heavy fighting broke out between rival factions.
  • Only a few embassies came back when a UN-backed administration took office in 2016.

Tripoli: Tunisia has reopened its consulate in the Libyan capital, the Libya foreign ministry said on Saturday, the latest mission to return to Tripoli.
Most embassies left Tripoli in 2014 when heavy fighting broke out between rival factions and few came back when a UN-backed administration took office in 2016.
The Tunisian consulate resumed work after talks between the two countries, the Libyan foreign ministry said. The Tunisian foreign ministry declined to comment, but a diplomatic source confirmed the move.
Tunisian had closed its mission 2015 after ten staff were kidnapped.
In recent weeks some Western embassies have sent diplomats for longer stays to Tripoli as security has improved, although few stay full time on the ground.
The Italian and Turkish embassies as well as the UN mission are among the few open.
Tripoli is formally run by a Government of National Accord backed by the UN but in reality controlled by a patchwork of armed groups.
Big street clashes between rival groups have ended, but several rockets which hit Tripoli airport this week were a reminder that security remains shaky.
The UN has been trying to meditate to produce a national government and end the rift between the administration in Tripoli and a rival one in the east, part of a conflict gripping the oil producer since the toppling of Muammar Qaddafi in 2011.