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Syria accused of cluster bomb use in civil war

Associated Press Modified: October 14, 2012 at 3:02 pm •  Published: October 14, 2012

Cluster bombs have also been used in other recent conflicts in the region, including by forces loyal to Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi, who was toppled in a bloody uprising last year, and by Israel in its 2006 war with the Lebanese Hezbollah militia. U.N. demining experts have said hundreds of thousands of bomblets dropped over Lebanon failed to explode.

The death toll in Syria's civil war crossed the threshold of 33,000, according to the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, which gathers reports from a network of activists.

The group said it counted 33,204 dead as of Friday, including 23,752 civilians or civilians-turned-rebel gunmen, 1,241 army defectors fighting with the rebels and 8,211 regime soldiers.

In Turkey, the leader of Syria's main opposition group complained that the international community is doing little more than managing the conflict. The rebels' foreign backers, including Turkey, have shied away from direct military intervention, fearing to get dragged into a quagmire without an exit strategy.

Abdelbaset Sieda, who heads the Syrian National Council, told reporters in Istanbul that the international community must establish safe havens in Syria and enforce no-fly zones to help the rebels counter the regime's airstrikes.

This would also cut down on the number of Syrians seeking refuge abroad and "resolve the humanitarian crisis, especially with winter approaching," Sieda said. International aid officials estimate the number of refugees could double by the end of the year, to more than 700,000.

Earlier this year, Turkey floated the idea of safe zones, but has since backed off.

Turkey has taken a notably harsher stance toward Syria since the start of the month and warned of retaliation if Syrian artillery hits Turkish soil again. The daily newspaper Hurriyet said in an unattributed report that Turkey has reinforced four naval bases along its Mediterranean coast north of Syria. The newspaper said Turkey sent frigates with cannons, as well as anti-ship and anti-aircraft missiles.

Foreign Minister Ahmet Ahmet Davutoglu said Sunday that Turkey is barring Syrian civilian flights from Turkey's airspace, a day after Syria issued a similar ban for Turkish commercial aircraft.

"As of yesterday, our airspace which was closed to Syrian military flights, has also been closed to civilian flights by Syria," Davutoglu said. He alleged that Syria is "abusing" civilian flights by using them to transport military equipment

Turkish planes, including some that flew Hajj pilgrims to Saudi Arabia, have been taking alternate routes since Wednesday, the day Turkey intercepted the Syrian passenger plane. At the time, Turkey said Syrian airspace was no longer safe and barred Turkish planes from taking that route. Turkish planes carrying pilgrims are now flying over northern Cyprus and Jordan, according to Turkey's Radikal newspaper


Associated Press writers Jamal Halaby in Amman, Jordan, Frank Jordans in Istanbul, Turkey, and Suzan Fraser in Ankara, Turkey, contributed to this report.