Syrian forces launch offensive against rebels

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Damascus, Jul 21: Syrian forces began an all-out assault against the opposition strongholds in Damascus on Friday, a day after the rebels seized points on the country's borders with Iraq and Turkey. The rebels also fought the state forces in several areas near Aleppo, propelling the Great Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights to say it was the deadliest ever seen in Syria's second city.

Lauding the military offensive, Syrian state television said the army succeeded in completely cleansing the Midan area in Damascus of mercenary terrorists. "Our brave army has brought back security there," it said.

Meanwhile, Russian President Vladimir Putin asked the Western powers not to implement any action against the Syrian government outside the UN Security Council's framework, Russian news agencies said. Putin said any such attempt would only weaken the UN's authority, sources said.

Following Wednesday's attacks which killed senior officials including the country's Defence Minister, the regime is said to have stepped up its offence against the rebels. Sources said the army so far had shown restraint but after Wednesday's attacks, it had decided to finish the terrorists off.

The Observatory said 16 people were killed in Aleppo while 128 people were dead across the nation. Most of whom were civilians. At least seven of the dead were children.

The deaths came after 302 people were killed on Thursday, which made it the deadliest day in the entire uprising that the country has been witnessing since the last 16 months. Meanwhile, a foreign ministry diplomat said another Syrian general had crossed into Turkey, which makes it 22 in all. Turkey has given shelter to anti-regime forces from Syria and who has formed a Free Syrian Army against the suppressive government of President Bahsar al-Assad.

UN Security Council extends Syria monitoring mission by 30 days

The UN Security Council on Saturday agreed to extend the UN Supervision Mission in Syria (UNSMIS) by another month and was ready to consider further extension provided the Syrian government and the rebels ceased their armed offensives against each other.

The Council voted in favour of a resolution drafted by Great Britain a day after other permanent members like Russia and China vetoed another resolution to impose sanctions against President Assad if the Syrian troops did not give up using weapons and withdraw troops from various towns and cities within 10 days. The UNSMIS was commissioned in Apr with an initial mandate of 90 days, which expired on Friday.

According to the resolution, the Security Council would only extend the mission further if there was confirmation that use of arms had been stopped and violence had receded so that the UNSMIS monitors succeeded in their mission. US Ambassador to the UN Susan Rice said the extension period would help the UNSMIS to withdraw from the violence-ravaged country in a safe and orderly manner.

OneIndia News

(With PTI inputs)

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