Friday, April 20, 2018

Syrian warplanes bomb Damascus suburbs

BEIRUT, Lebanon — Syrian warplanes bombed Damascus suburbs and rebel-held areas in the country's north Wednesday as the government blasted the European Union for endorsing a newly formed opposition coalition.

The raids struck several eastern suburbs of the Syrian capital and the strategic northern city of Maaret al-Numan, a key supply route linking Damascus and the commercial hub of Aleppo, two activist groups said. Both the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights and the Local Coordination Committees also reported violence elsewhere in Syria.

Syria's conflict erupted in March 2011 with an uprising against President Bashar Assad's regime, inspired by other Arab Spring revolts. The crisis has since morphed into a civil war, with nearly 40,000 people killed.

The war has often spilled over to Turkey, Lebanon and Jordan. Tens of thousands of Syrian refugees have fled to the three neighboring countries as violence in Syria rages.

Turkey's government requested deployment of NATO's Patriot surface-to-air missiles Wednesday to bolster its defenses along its border with Syria, NATO officials said.

NATO doesn't want to be drawn into the Syrian conflict, saying it would consider deploying the missiles purely to protect Turkey, a member country.

Assad's regime blames the revolt on a foreign conspiracy and accuses Saudi Arabia and Qatar, along with the United States, other Western countries and Turkey, of funding, training and arming the rebels.

Damascus on Wednesday criticized the European Union for recognizing the newly formed Syrian opposition coalition as a legitimate voice of the Syrian people.

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