Thursday, September 5, 2013

Al-Qaida-linked Syria rebels hit Christian village

    Thursday, September 05, 2013   No comments

Al-Qaida-linked rebels launched an assault Wednesday on a regime-held Christian village in the densely populated west of Syria and new clashes erupted near the capital, Damascus — part of a brutal battle of attrition each side believes it can win despite more than two years of deadlock.

As the world focused on possible U.S. military action against Syria, rebels commandeered a mountaintop hotel in the village of Maaloula and shelled the community below, said a nun, speaking by phone from a convent in the village. She spoke on condition of anonymity for fear of reprisals.

The attack came hours before a Senate panel voted to give President Barack Obama authority to use military force against Syria — the first time lawmakers have voted to allow military action since the October 2002 votes authorizing the invasion of Iraq.

VIDEO: William Cohen on Possible U.S. Action in Syria
The measure, which cleared the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on a 10-7 vote, was altered at the last minute to support "decisive changes to the present military balance of power" in Syria's civil war, though it ruled out U.S. combat operations on the ground. It was expected to reach the full Senate floor next week.

The Syria conflict, which began with a popular uprising in March 2011, has been stalemated, and it's not clear if U.S. military strikes over the regime's alleged chemical weapons use would change that. Obama has said he seeks limited pinpoint action to deter future chemical attacks, not regime change.

Obama has been lobbying for international and domestic support for punishing President Bashar Assad's regime, which the U.S. says fired rockets loaded with the nerve agent sarin on rebel-held areas near Damascus before dawn on Aug. 21, killing hundreds of civilians.

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