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Syrian gov’t intensifies attacks on rebels

DAMASCUS, Syria, Jan. 27 (UPI) — The Syrian government stepped up attacks on rebels in Damascus Sunday with warplanes and intensified artillery, anti-government activists in Beirut said.

Thousand of Syrians have fled to Lebanon and 30,000 have sought refuge in Jordan during the past month’s fierce fighting, while the United Nations tries to find increased international aid for an underfinanced relief effort, The New York Times reported Sunday.

Activists said rebels attacked a railway station in Qadam, an area of Damascus that had not previously seen fighting, but the Times said the claims could not be verified due to the Syrian government’s restrictions on journalists inside the country.

The Syrian network for human rights said it documented 86 deaths across Syria Sunday — including 26 in an around Damascus, 16 in Aleppo, 15 in Homs, 10 in Idlib, nine in Daraa, seven in Hama and one in Lattakia.

Meetings on the crisis are scheduled for Monday in Paris, between the primary exile opposition group and civilian opposition leaders, the Times reported.

International efforts to end the crisis, in which 60,000 have been killed, seem to have halted, as Russia, which backs Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad, is in conflict with the Western and Arab supporters of the Syrian rebels, the Times said.

“(The conflict) must be decided by the Syrian people — not Russia, not the United States, not any other country,” said Russian Prime Minister Dmitri Medvedev.

Some Syrian rebel leaders said they are angry that Western countries contemplate aiding France in its attacks on al-Qaida-linked terrorists in Mali, while continuing to be reluctant to help Syria despite nearly two years of bloodshed, the Times reported.

“In a situation like Syria, I have to ask, can we make a difference in that situation? Would a military intervention have an impact? How would it affect our ability to support troops who are still in Afghanistan? What would be the aftermath of our involvement on the ground? Could it trigger even worse violence or the use of chemical weapons? What offers the best prospect of a stable post-Assad regime?” U.S. President Barack Obama told The New Republic in an interview published Sunday.

“And how do I weigh tens of thousands who’ve been killed in Syria versus the tens of thousands who are currently being killed in the Congo? Those are not simple questions.”

Copyright 2013 United Press International, Inc. (UPI).

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