Saturday, June 23, 2018

Syrian army intensifies offensive against rebels

DAMASCUS, Syria — Syrian troops stepped up an offensive against rebels in the north on Wednesday after explosions targeting security forces and a university campus that killed more than 100 people in two days.

Powerful suicide car bombs that killed about two dozen people in Idlib marked another escalation in the fight for control of northern Syria, a key battlefield in the country's civil war. The day before, massive blasts heavily damaged the main university in the commercial hub of Aleppo, killing 87 people and wounding scores of others.

The nearly simultaneous bombings in Idlib on Wednesday bore the trademarks of Islamic militants, the most organized rebel fighters trying to topple President Bashar Assad's government. More than 60,000 people have been killed in the 22-month conflict, according to the United Nations.

Assad's warplanes struck rebel targets in both northern cities, still reeling from the deadly explosions. The Syrian army vowed to crush the armed opposition to "cleanse the homeland of their dirt."

The army said in a statement that its troops killed and wounded dozens of "terrorist mercenaries" in Aleppo after the attacks on the university where students were taking mid-year exams. Assad's regime regularly refers to rebels as "terrorists."

No one has claimed responsibility for Wednesday's explosions.

It's also unclear who was responsible for the twin blasts that ripped through the university campus Tuesday in Aleppo, killing dozens, setting cars on fire and blowing the walls off dormitory rooms.

The opposition and the government have blamed each other.

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