Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Syrian forces, rebels in major Damascus clashes

BEIRUT, Lebanon — Syrian regime forces shelled two central Damascus districts Wednesday before troops backed by tanks swept through on house-to-house raids, killing at least 35 suspected rebels, in a major flare-up of fighting in the Syrian capital, activists said.

In a particularly hard-hit northern district, activists said they discovered dozens of bodies that appeared to have been shot execution-style. Such gruesome reports have become increasingly common in recent months as the civil war has taken on heavy sectarian undertones.

Government forces are also engaged in a major battle for control of the northern city of Aleppo, as well as smaller-scale operations elsewhere.

On the diplomatic front, a senior United Nations official said Iran's arms supplies to Syria violated U.N. sanctions. France also indicated that it has provided the rebels with communication and protection equipment but cautioned against foreign intervention without a U.N. mandate.

A prominent opposition figure, meanwhile, rejected as "more lies" comments by a senior Syrian official that Damascus would be willing to discuss President Bashar Assad's resignation, but only after the opposition agreed to join in negotiating a peaceful settlement.

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