Air Strikes Pound Syria Rebels as Envoy Urges China to Help

Air Strikes Pound Syria Rebels as Envoy Urges China to Help

Syrian warplanes pounded rebel bastions on Wednesday after a day of fighting that left more than 180 dead, as UN-Arab League peace envoy Lakhdar Brahimi urged China to help end the violence.

In a week that has seen unprecedented air strikes, regime fighter jets on Wednesday again pummeled rebel-controlled areas east of Damascus where fighting has raged for months.

At least five raids were carried out early Wednesday in the capital’s eastern suburbs, where 30 civilians, including five children, were killed in air raids and fighting on Tuesday, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.

The violence killed 182 people across Syria on Tuesday, said the Britain-based Observatory, a key watchdog of the conflict.

Analysts say the regime has boosted air strikes in recent days in a bid to reverse opposition gains on the ground, especially in Syria’s north, and to prevent the rebels from taking control of further territory around the capital.

Fierce clashes also erupted Wednesday in the northwest province of Idlib, where rebels attacked highway military checkpoints and battles raged over the rebel-held village of Maaret al-Numan and the regime-controlled Wadi Daif army base.

After the heaviest wave of air strikes yet on Monday, on Tuesday a fighter jet hit targets inside Damascus for the first time, dropping four bombs on an eastern neighbourhood near to an opposition-held suburb.

Rebels also claimed responsibility for the killing of a senior air force general, Abdullah Mahmud al-Khalidi, whom state television said had been assassinated by “terrorists”.

Visiting Beijing, peace envoy Brahimi said he hoped China would platy an active role in helping to bring a halt to Syria’s violence.

Greeting Chinese Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi at the foreign ministry in front of reporters, Brahimi said he hoped “China can play an active role in solving the events in Syria,” without elaborating further.

Both China and Russia have exercised their veto in the UN Security Council to block resolutions aimed at putting more pressure on President Bashar al-Assad.

Yang thanked Brahimi for his work and said he hoped their discussions — their third in two months — would promote “mutual understanding” and “the appropriate handling of the Syrian issue”.

China’s foreign ministry did not reveal the content of the talks but reiterated that Beijing would push for a “political resolution in Syria”.

Brahimi, who succeeded former United Nations chief Kofi Annan after he quit over what he called a lack of international support, is due to present new proposals for resolving the Syria conflict to the UN Security Council in November.

His two-day visit to China, which ends Wednesday, came after he met Russia’s foreign minister in Moscow on Monday and described the conflict as going from bad to worse.

The uprising, which began in March 2011 as a peaceful protest movement, has escalated into an armed insurgency. More than than 36,000 people have died according to the Observatory.

Most of the rebels, like the population, are members of Syria’s Sunni Muslim majority, while Assad’s government is dominated by his Alawite minority, an offshoot of Shiite Islam.