Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Syrian military's text to rebels: 'Game over'

BEIRUT, Lebanon — Cellphones in Syria rang, buzzed and chirped Thursday with an ominous text message from the military to members of the armed rebellion: "Game over."

The rebels provided their own response to the regime's warning to surrender and disarm by launching new attacks to drive government troops out of the largest city of Aleppo.

There's no indication that the stalemated civil war has taken a decisive turn in any direction, however, and the bloodshed that has already claimed more than 30,000 lives looks likely to drag on for many more months.

Compounding the grim outlook, sharp disagreements between Syria's foreign friends and foes — on display at the U.N. General Assembly this week — have prevented a diplomatic solution from taking shape.

Syrians with subscriptions to the country's two cellphone service providers said they began receiving the text messages signed by the Syrian Arab Army urging the rebels to surrender their weapons and warning that a countdown to evict any foreign fighters in the country has begun.

Refugee crisis: The number of Syrians fleeing to neighboring countries for safety and aid is likely to exceed 700,000 by the end of the year, according to the United Nations and humanitarian agencies that are struggling to keep pace with the surge in numbers in recent weeks.

More than half a million people already have fled the civil war in Syria and made their way to surrounding countries, the United Nations' refugee agency estimates, but only 294,000 have registered as refugees or are waiting to do so.

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