Rebels claimed to have killed 18 soldiers in car bomb


SYRIAN REBELS have reportedly killed 18 soldiers in the northern province of Idlib by detonating a car bomb near an army post and raking it with fire.

Some 70-100 soldiers were present yesterday at the time of the strike, according to the Britain-based opposition Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

Heavy fighting was also said to be taking place in Aleppo where four Syrian-Armenians were killed and a number of troops killed and wounded on the airport road. The Armenians, members of the local community, had returned from a visit to Armenia where many Syrian-Armenians have fled since fighting flared in Aleppo last month.

The city’s Syriac Orthodox Archbishop Yohanna Ibrahim said hundreds of Arab-Christian families have left during the ongoing battle.

“In its modern history Aleppo has not seen such critical and painful times as the last few weeks. Christians have been attacked and kidnapped,” he said.

Christians, who account for less than 10 per cent of the population, are seen as supporting the secular government against the largely Muslim fundamentalist rebels.

UN investigators have said that victims of the conflict are increasingly targeted because of their faith.

Jordan’s King Abdullah expressed concern over the “risk of a fragmentation of Syria” and rising sectarian violence that “not only endangers the unity of Syria” but could also spill over into neighbouring countries. He warned that “this risk is looming closer”.

Egyptian president Mohamed Morsi has, apparently, pressed Tehran to drop Syrian president Bashar al-Assad, a close ally, after including Iran in an “Islamic Quartet”. This comprises pro-rebel Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Turkey, which he hopes will be able to resolve the Syrian crisis. Iran countered by urging Mr Morsi to invite Iraq and Venezuela, which adopt a pro-Assad stance, to join the grouping in order to create balance and transform it into a non-aligned body.

Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez said he will consider the Iranian proposal to join the grouping with the aim of ending “imperialist aggression” in Syria. He has accused Washington of fomenting violence in Syria with the aim of promoting regime change.

Meanwhile, the United Nations said more than 250,000 Syrians have fled to adjacent countries and that 1.2 million have been displaced within the country.