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Syrian Forces Press Against Rebels in Aleppo, Damascus

Syrian forces used helicopters and heavy weapons as they tried to push rebels from Aleppo and Damascus after United Nations monitors completed their withdrawal from the country.

Government forces attacked rebel positions in Aleppo, the country’s largest city, with helicopter gunships, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said on its Facebook page yesterday. Clashes also took place around Damascus and in Daraa, the U.K.-based group said.

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s forces killed 440 people yesterday, the opposition Local Coordination Committees said in an e-mailed statement. Among the victims were 221 people in the Damascus suburb of Dariya, the opposition Syrian National Council said on its Facebook page. Many of the dead in Dariya were killed execution-style, the Coordination Committees said. Thirty-nine soldiers died in the fighting yesterday, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.

State-run Syrian television said Syrian forces had killed “terrorists” in Dariya and confiscated weapons and explosives.

International efforts have failed to halt a 17-month uprising against Assad that, according to the opposition Syrian Observatory, has claimed more than 23,000 lives. UN military monitors completed their departure Aug. 24 after the two sides failed to observe an April cease-fire. The UN envoy for Syria, Kofi Annan, resigned this month.

Assad’s Departure

Outside military involvement in Syria is “probably not the solution” to the “civil war” occurring in the country, former U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell said in an interview with CNN’s “Fareed Zakaria GPS” scheduled for broadcast today.

“It’s not clear to me that the outside world can do much more than lend encouragement to his departure, perhaps provide some limited assistance to the free Syrian forces,” Powell said, according to a CNN transcript.

Powell, a former chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, said the U.S. administration is considering what will happen after Assad leaves power.

“I think he will eventually depart,” Powell said. “I don’t think history is on his side, but it’s going to be ugly for a while until that point is reached.”

Lebanon Involvement

The fighting has started to spill into Lebanon. A Sunni Muslim sheikh was killed last week by a sniper in the northern Lebanese city of Tripoli, where clashes between supporters and opponents of the Syrian government have flared up this month. The death of Sheikh Khaled al-Baradei sparked fresh clashes between anti-Syrian Sunni Muslims and Alawites who support Assad, Lebanon’s official National News Agency said yesterday.

Assad and most of his top officials come from the Alawite sect, affiliated with Shiite Islam. The majority of Syria’s population and many leaders of the armed uprising are Sunni.

Rebel forces are fighting to seize control of al-Bukmal city in the Deir Ezzor province in Syria’s oil-rich east, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said on Facebook. The city lies across from the Iraqi border town of al-Qaim. Rebels seized control of the border post outside of Bukmal in July.

The number of refugees who have fled Syria exceeds 200,000, Al Jazeera reported, citing the UN.

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