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18 juillet 2012 3 18 /07 /juillet /2012 14:32



DAMASCUS, Syria, July 18 (UPI)


Syrian Defense Minister Daywood Rajiha was killed Wednesday in a suicide bombing of a national security building in Damascus, state-run media reported.


The report indicated the bombing occurred during a meeting of ministers and security leaders, CNN reported. Rajiha is the highest-ranking known member of the Syrian regime to be killed.


The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, an opposition organization, said preliminary reports indicated a car bomb caused an "intense explosion" in Damascus.


Another opposition group, the Local Coordination Committees of Syria, reported chaos was unfolding in Syria's capital as explosions and heavy gunfire reverberated through the city.


The official Syrian Arab News Agency provided no details of the explosion, which it called a "suicide terrorist attack," The New York Times reported.


"The battle for Damascus has not started," Abu Raed, a coordinator in Qaboun for the rebel Free Syrian Army, interviewed by the Times in Turkey. "It is more ebb and flow; these skirmishes are just a test as our fighters infiltrate then withdraw."


Elsewhere in the country beset by violence since the uprising against President Bashar Assad began in March 2011, the LLC said regime forces "have intensified the shelling by using helicopter gunships, artillery and mortars" in Homs.


At least 15 people had been killed across the country by midday local time, activists said.


Israeli intelligence indicated Assad was shifting troops into Damascus from Syria's border with the disputed Golan Heights held by Israel, the Times said.


Meanwhile, the U.N. Security Council could vote Wednesday on whether to extend the mission of 300 U.N. monitors on the ground in Syria as a Friday deadline looms. The mission's work has been largely suspended because of surging violence since April, when U.N.-Arab League envoy Kofi Annan brokered a peace plan that included monitoring of a cease-fire.


The U.N. Security Council has two draft resolutions on the Syrian crisis before it. One threatens sanctions against Assad's regime if government forces don't stop attacks and also calls for renewing the U.N. observer mission for 45 days. Russia, a permanent Security Council member, has threatened to veto the measure.


Russia has opposed efforts seeking to blame, punish or change the Syrian government. Russia and China, trading partners with Syria, vetoed two other resolutions in the U.N. Security Council.


Russia has offered a draft resolution that "strongly urges all parties in Syria to cease immediately all armed violence in all its forms," CNN said. The Russian draft calls for renewing the observer mission for three months.


Two Syrian generals were among hundreds of refugees who crossed from Syria into Turkey overnight, bringing the total number of defecting generals to 20, the BBC reported.


The Syrian Network for Human Rights and the Damascus Center for Human Rights Studies said in its Tuesday report on rights violations several children unable to receive proper care after they were injured by "indiscriminate bombardment carried out by the Syrian army."


The report said several Damascus neighborhoods and other villages were heavily damaged after being attacked by tanks and other weapons.


The United Nations estimates more than 10,000 people have been killed in the violence since the crisis began; opposition activists say more than 15,000 have died.

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