Gov't reports hitting rebel targets; Red Cross recovers dead in Aleppo

DAMASCUS, Syria, April 17 (UPI) -- Armed forces loyal to Syrian President Bashar Assad targeted sites on the outskirts of Homs Wednesday, killing opposition forces, state-run media reported.

A military source told government-run SANA armed forces fired on several targets in the eastern and western orchards in Palmyra, killing and injuring many "terrorists," the government's term for anti-Assad factions.


The number of dead and injured was not reported.

The Syrian Network for Human Rights said it documented the deaths of 124 people from across Syria Tuesday, including 19 children and eight women.

The Syrian Red Crescent recovered 31 bodies in Aleppo during a temporary cease-fire, The Guardian reported. The dead were thought to have been killed by government snipers.

Weapons blogger Eliot Higgins reported Syrian rebels have Czech-made anti-tank shells, the first time Czech weapons have been seen in the two-year civil war.


The group with the weapons, Ghorabaa Sham, purchased eight of them from another opposition group, The Guardian said. It's unclear where these weapons originated.

On the diplomacy front, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov warned an upcoming Friends of Syria meeting could threaten to undermine the peace plan road map world leaders developed in Geneva, Switzerland, in June, Today's Zaman reported.

Lavrov, in Istanbul to meet with Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu, repeated his criticism of the Arab League's decision to recognize the Syrian opposition.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry is to meet this weekend in Turkey with Friends of Syria -- a group made of up of dozens of nations formed after Russia and China vetoed a U.N. resolution condemning Syria.

Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu is expected to warn British Prime Minister David Cameron to exercise caution in arming Syrian rebels, Haaretz reported.

The two were to meet after former Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher's funeral in London.

Concern is growing internationally about arming Syrian opposition forces following last week's announcement by the rebel group Jabhat al-Nusra's of its affiliation with al-Qaida.


Speaking in an interview on Syrian state television, Assad alluded to the announcement by Jabhat al-Nusra and compared the link to Western support for the mujahedin in Afghanistan in the 1980s, Britain's Daily Telegraph reported.

"The West has paid heavily for funding al-Qaida in its early stages," he said. "Today, it is doing the same in Syria, Libya and other places, and will pay a heavy price in the heart of Europe and the United States."

Assad was critical of Syria's neighbors for providing support for rebels in the civil war that has persisted for more than two years. Jordan has allowed arms shipments -- presumably through Saudi Arabia -- to cross its border in Syria, the newspaper said.

"I cannot believe that hundreds (of rebels) are entering Syria with their weapons while Jordan is capable of arresting any single person with a light arm for going to resist in Palestine," Assad said.

Police in Belgium raided 48 homes, arresting six men in an investigation into a jihadist recruitment drive for Syria's insurgency, The New York Times reported.

Belgian authorities said their investigation focused on a group known as Sharia4Belgium and whether it constitutes a terrorist group.


Officials said they know of 33 people affiliated with the organization who were either already in Syria or en route, the Times said.

The Los Angeles Times said Syrian history books used to teach children in Syrian refugee camps in Turkey were being revised to reflect the anti-Assad narrative.

Photos of Assad and his late father have been deleted or blackened, and references to either man as "immortal commander" have been edited out, the Times said. The Syrian flag has been replaced with the opposition flag.

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