Syrian FM calls on rebels to disarm and negotiate

Published on NewsOK Modified: January 19, 2013 at 3:22 pm •  Published: January 19, 2013
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Last week, rebels captured the nearby air base of Taftanaz in a significant blow to President Bashar Assad's forces, who increasingly rely on airpower.

The rebels also have been trying to capture other air bases in the northern province of Aleppo, and, according to activists, were attacking the air base of Mannagh near the Turkish border.

In Turkey, state-run Anadolu news agency said Syria's air force targeted a mosque and a school building that was apparently sheltering displaced Syrians in the town of Salqin, some four miles (six kilometers) from the border with Turkey in Idlib province. Dozens of people were killed and wounded.

At least 30 people wounded in the attack were taken across the border to Turkey for treatment, and two died in Turkish hospitals, the news agency said.

The displaced Syrians were eating when the school was attacked, according to Anadolu, who interviewed witnesses who has crossed into the Turkish border province of Hatay. The wounded included women and children, the agency said.

Syria's official news agency SANA said troops had targeted rebel hideouts in Salqin, killing and wounding some of them.

Also in Turkey on Saturday, members of the newly-restructured Syrian opposition held a conference in Istanbul aiming to nominate representatives for a transitional government.

"We have some ideas, some proposals," said one opposition member, Abdul Ahad Astephoa, without mentioning any specifics.

The group, known as the National Coalition for Syrian Revolutionary and Opposition Forces, was formed in Qatar in November amid international pressure to unite factions within the opposition.

Rami Abdul-Rahman, who heads the Observatory, said the government was sending reinforcements to the central city of Homs where rebels have controlled some neighborhoods for more than a year. Residents of Homs, Syria's third largest city, were one of the first to rise up against Assad and many refer to it as "the capital of the revolution."

"It seems they are preparing for a big attack on Homs," Abdul-Rahman said by telephone.

The Observatory and the LCC said troops attacked several suburbs of the capital, Damascus, as well as Homs and the southern rebel-held town of Busra al-Harir. The shelling and air raids targeted the Damascus suburbs of Douma, Daraya and Moadamiyeh where regime forces have been on the offensive for weeks, they said.

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Associated Press writer Suzan Fraser in Ankara, Turkey, contributed to this report.