Syrian forces kill dozens in bombardments: opposition

Sun Jan 13, 2013 6:50pm EST
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By Khaled Yacoub Oweis

AMMAN (Reuters) - Government forces killed at least 36 people, 14 of them children, in a bombardment of rebel-held areas on the outskirts of Damascus on Sunday, Syrian opposition activists said.

Video footage showed women weeping over the dismembered bodies of children strewn across a field in the Eastern Ghouta region, near an air defense base on the edge of the town of Muleiha, 5 km (3 miles) east of Damascus.

The air, rocket and artillery campaign is the heaviest since rebels overran a helicopter base and missile base near Damascus two months ago and encroached on the main international airport, inching steadily closer to the capital, the sources said.

Separately, in the northern opposition-held town of Azaz, 10 km (6 miles) from the border with Turkey, a Reuters reporter saw a Syrian warplane bombard a rebel position in the main market. Opposition activists said 16 rebels or civilians were killed.

Russia urged the rebels to make counter-proposals to those made by President Bashar al-Assad in a speech a week ago to start a dialogue that could end the fighting.

"If I were in the opposition's shoes, I would come up with my ideas in response on how to establish a dialogue," Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said on Sunday.

"President Assad came out with initiatives aimed at inviting all opposition members to dialogue. Yes, these initiatives probably do not go far enough. Probably they will not seem serious to some, but they are proposals," Interfax news agency quoted Lavrov as saying.

Muleiha's air base is the last major fortification in the area east of Damascus not yet to have fallen to the rebels. Assad's core troops and security personnel, mostly belonging to his minority Alawite sect, are entrenched in the capital.   Continued...

Men mourn, in the presence of Free Syrian Army fighters, the death of two of their relatives killed by what activists said was missiles fired by a Syrian Air Force fighter jet from forces loyal to Syria's President Bashar al-Assad, at the souk of Azaz, north of Aleppo, January 13, 2013. REUTERS/Zain Karam