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Syrian rebels take a pounding

AMMAN/BEIRUT — Syrian warplanes bombed a Damascus suburb yesterday in a push to dislodge rebels from a stronghold that threatens President Bashar al-Assad’s hold on the capital, opposition activists said.

Heavy fighting also raged in other outskirts of the city in the most serious challenge to Assad’s seat of power in months.

In Brussels, NATO envoys were considering a request by Turkey to deploy Patriot missiles to defend itself against any Syrian attacks.

Even though the measure is aimed at preventing a spill-over of the 20-month-old conflict into Syria’s neighbours, it signalled a creeping internationalisation of the conflict.

After months of slow progress, the rebels have in the last few weeks captured several army positions on the outskirts of Damascus and outlying regions, including a special forces base near Aleppo, Syria’s commercial hub, and an air defence position near Damascus’s southern gate.

Assad’s opponents are also gaining support internationally with a new coalition of opposition and rebel groups seeking recognition as the legitimate voice of the Syrian people.

Shashank Joshi of the Royal United Services Institute in London said the developments of the last few weeks were shifting the balance in favour of the rebels. (Reuters)

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