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Syria rebels clash with state forces, reportedly attack pipeline

December 31, 2012|By Emily Alpert
  • Rebel fighters from the Free Syrian Army fire at enemy positions during heavy clashes with government forces in the Salaheddine district of Aleppo on Saturday.
Rebel fighters from the Free Syrian Army fire at enemy positions during… (Abdullah Al-Yasin / Associated…)

As a devastating year in Syria drew to a close, armed rebels and government forces continued to battle over the bloodied country, state media and opposition activists reported Monday.

Government forces have seized weapons and killed and arrested “a number of terrorists” in the province of Homs, the official Syrian Arab News Agency reported, using its usual term for the armed rebels. State media also carried a military statement claiming that army units had killed “huge numbers of terrorists” in the Damascus countryside and the areas surrounding the Aleppo airport, stressing “its resolve to continue cracking down on the terrorists.”

The agency did not offer an estimated count of the number killed. As of early evening in Syria, pro-opposition activists said at least 44 people had been killed Monday across the country, roughly half of them civilians.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a pro-opposition group based in London, said the dead included eight civilians and seven rebels killed Monday during clashes and bombardment in the area of Reef Dimashq. Hundreds more people were slain over the weekend, activists from several groups claim. The Times could not immediately confirm the reported death tolls.

State media also reported that militants had attacked a pipeline north of the city of Dair Alzour, halting natural gas production. Roughly 1.5 million cubic meters of natural gas were lost, the agency said.

Rebels have seized oil fields and launched other attacks on economic lifelines to try to starve the Syrian government of funds. Syrian Prime Minister Wael Halqi told lawmakers Monday that such attacks, combined with “unfair economic sanctions” imposed by the West, had triggered a diesel and gas crisis, according to the Syrian Arab News Agency.

Tens of thousands of people are believed to have lost their lives in Syria since the uprising against President Bashar Assad first erupted nearly two years ago. The raging violence has sent more than 500,000 refugees pouring out of the country and left an estimated 4 million people inside the country in need, according to the United Nations, which this month launched its largest-ever financial appeal for such a crisis, seeking more than $1.5 billion.

Either Syrians will reach a political solution to the crisis or the country will be “transformed into hell,” United Nations and Arab League envoy Lakhdar Brahimi said Sunday at a news conference in Cairo. Brahimi has sought to revive plans for a transitional government and new elections.

“The choice is between the political solution and the entire collapse of the Syrian state,” Brahimi told reporters.

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