- - Thursday, August 23, 2012

Syria

BEIRUT — Syrian troops backed by tanks and helicopters broke into a Damascus suburb Thursday. The action followed two days of shelling and intense clashes as part of a widening offensive by President Bashar Assad to seize control of parts of the capital and surrounding areas from rebel fighters, activists said.

At least 15 people were killed in the offensive on Daraya, only a few miles southwest of Damascus.

Across the country, at least 100 people died in shelling and clashes, according to the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights and the Local Coordination Committees.

Residents of Damascus said troops were bombing Daraya and nearby Moadamiyeh from the Qasioun mountain overlooking the city.

In the eastern part of the country, Syrian rebels waged fierce battles with regime troops in the town of al-Bukamal, which is across the border from the Iraqi town of Qaim.

The border crossing has been in rebel hands since last month, but wresting control of al-Bukamal itself from regime troops would expand the opposition foothold along the frontier.

The opposition already controls a wide swath of territory along the border with Turkey in the north, as well as pockets along the frontier with Jordan to the south and Lebanon to the west. Together, they have proven key in ferrying people and supplies into and out of the country.

TURKEY

Possible Iranian link investigated in bombing

ISTANBUL — Turkey has said it is investigating whether another country, possibly Iran, was involved in an explosion that killed nine people near Syria earlier this week.

The announcement reflects concern about spillover from the war in Syria as well as increasing tension with Iran, a regional power that supports Syrian President Bashar Assad.

Turkey blamed a Kurdish rebel group, the PKK, for the attack in the southern city of Gaziantep.

In a separate incident near the Iraqi border, Turkish media reported Thursday that five soldiers and 16 Kurdish militants died in a nighttime ambush of a military convoy and an ensuing operation by security forces.

Some Turkish officials allege there are links between the PKK, which denied it carried out the bombing, and Syrian intelligence.

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