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Syrian official: War causes $15 billion in losses

Published on NewsOK Modified: June 30, 2013 at 12:03 pm •  Published: June 30, 2013
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Many Syrians complain they can barely make ends meet.

"Living in Syria is like being in a burning hell," a Damascus resident said Sunday via Skype. He identified himself only as Abu Khaled, fearing government retribution. "It's the rising prices on the one side, the war on the other, and in between killings and kidnappings, lack of security and bombs and rockets falling on our heads and homes."

In the long-run, the economic pinch could hamper the Assad regime's ability to fund his efforts to quell the armed rebellion.

In recent weeks, however, government forces — bolstered by an influx of fighters from Lebanon's Hezbollah militant group — have clawed back ground lost to rebels over the past year, most importantly the strategic town of Qusair near the Lebanese border.

With Qusair now in government hands, an emboldened military is seeking to retake rebellious neighborhoods in the nearby city of Homs, Syria's third largest and a flashpoint since the early days of the uprising.

On Sunday, Syrian warplanes shelled the old quarters of Homs, killing one woman and two children, according to the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights and two activists who spoke to The Associated Press on Skype.

"They have wiped half the city off the map," said an activist who uses the name Abu Bilal. He and activist Tariq Badrakhan said it was the heaviest shelling of Homs since rebels seized control of parts of the city over a year ago.

Syrian forces also tried to push into the city from the Babout quarter, but fighters of the al-Qaida affiliate Jabhat al-Nusra pushed them back, Abu Bilal said. The activists said at least five Syrian soldiers and Hezbollah fighters were killed.

About 70 people were killed Sunday, most of them rebels and soldiers, said the Observatory.

Also Sunday, the Western-backed Syrian National Coalition, the country's main opposition block, called on the international community to protect civilians in Homs.

In the northern province of Aleppo, Syrian rebels shot down a helicopter flying over the town of Kufr Nabel, sending it crashing in a fiery ball, according to activists and state media.

Seven people were killed, most of them education officials flying in exam papers, state media said.

In a video posted online, a voice can be heard shouting "God is great" as an aircraft emitting plumes of smoke is seen smashing into a plain scattered with homes. The video corresponded to other AP reporting of the events depicted.

In the town of al-Kisweh near Damascus, when a car bomb exploded near a government building, wounding 10 people, activists and state-run media said.

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Associated Press writers Albert Aji in Damascus, Syria, and Barbara Surk and Diaa Hadid in Beirut contributed to this report.