Moscow to start evacuating Russians from Syria
The Observatory also reported a car bombing in the Damascus neighborhood of Dummar and said another car bomb exploded late Monday in central Syria, killing at least 30 pro-government gunmen in Salamiyeh.
In addition, the group said there were clashes in the town of Ras al-Ayn near the border with Turkey between fighters from the Kurdish Democratic Union Party, or PYD, which leans in favor of Syria's government and anti-government rebels, who entered the town in November.
Tensions have flared between Syria and Turkey after shells fired from Syria landed on the Turkish side of the border. As a result, Germany, the Netherlands and the United States decided to send two batteries of Patriot air defense missiles each to protect Turkey, their NATO ally.
On Monday, German soldiers unloaded trucks carrying the missile systems at the port of Iskenderun, while another ship, carrying the Dutch shipment, waited its turn anchored at the harbor.
The U.N. said that there are an estimated 4 million people were in urgent need of humanitarian assistance in Syria, including at least 2 million who are internally displaced. With harsh winter conditions, people are facing heavy rains and sub-zero temperatures, often without adequate food, shelter, water or access to medical care.
The McClatchy news organization published a report on Monday, supporting activists' claim that Syrian forces have been targeting bakeries. According to data compiled by the news organization, government forces attacked bread lines and bakeries at least 80 times last year, causing hundreds of casualties and in most cases destroying the bakeries.
The Syrian government, meantime, blamed a rebel attack on a key power line for a blackout that hit Damascus and much of the country's south overnight, leaving residents cold and in the dark amid a fuel crisis that has stranded many at home.
The Syrian capital's 2.5 million residents have grown used to frequent power cuts as the country's conflict has damaged infrastructure and sapped the government's finances. But some said Monday that the overnight outage was the first to darken the entire capital since the conflict began.
The blackout hit residents especially hard because of rampant fuel shortages and below-freezing temperatures.
"We covered ourselves from the cold in blankets because there was no diesel or electricity for the heaters," said retired teacher Mariam Ghassan, 60. "We changed our whole lives to get organized for power cuts, but now we have no idea when the power will come or go."
By midday Monday, power had returned to more than half of the capital, and Electricity Minister Imad Khamis said authorities were working to restore it in other areas.
Associated Press writer Albert Aji contributed to this report from Damascus, Syria.
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