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Airstrikes pound Syria rebels; China urged to assist

DAMASCUS--Syrian warplanes pounded rebel bastions on Wednesday as peace envoy Lakhdar Brahimi urged China to help end an escalating conflict now said to have killed more than 36,000 people.

In a week that has seen unprecedented airstrikes, regime fighter jets again pummeled rebel-controlled areas east of Damascus where clashes have raged for months.

The raids were carried out a day after 30 civilians, including five children, were killed in airstrikes and fighting around the capital's eastern suburbs, said the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

Clashes erupted around Damascus and in the northwestern province of Idlib, where rebels attacked highway military checkpoints and battles raged over the rebel-held town of Maaret al-Numan and the Wadi Daif army base.

Fighting also shook the northern city of Aleppo, residents said, and a motorcycle bomb attack near a Shiite Muslim shrine southeast of the capital killed at least eight people and injured dozens, the Observatory said.

At least 32 people were killed on Wednesday, including 17 civilians, said the Observatory, adding that more than 36,000 people had now died in the 19-month conflict.

An average of 165 people have been killed per daysince Aug. 1, it said, and the overall toll includes nearly 27,000 civilians and armed rebels and more than 9,000 government soldiers.

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

Analysts say the regime has boosted airstrikes 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.

Visiting Beijing, U.N. and Arab League peace envoy Brahimi said he hoped China would play an active role in helping to bring a halt to Syria's violence.

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

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

During the talks, Yang said the situation in Syria had reached a crucial stage but a political solution was the only way to end the bloodshed.

“A political resolution is the only pragmatic option in Syria,” Yang was quoted by the state Xinhua News Agency as saying.

Yang acknowledged the situation was worsening, saying it was now at “a crucial stage.”

“The international community should spare no efforts to collaborate with and support diplomatic mediation, while enhancing humanitarian assistance to Syria,” the minister said.

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 conflict to the Security Council in November.

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Destroyed buildings are seen along a desolated street in the Bustan Al-Pasha district after several weeks of intense battles between rebel fighters and the Syrian army in Aleppo, Syria, Tuesday, Oct. 30. Syrian warplanes pounded rebel bastions on Wednesday, Oct. 31 as peace envoy Lakhdar Brahimi urged China to help end an escalating conflict now said to have killed more than 36,000 people.

(AP)

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