(MENAFN - Arab News) The Syrian military yesterday launched the heaviest airstrikes seen in the country since warplanes were first deployed over the summer, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.
"There have been 48 air raids across the country over four hours this morning. These are the heaviest air strikes since warplanes were first deployed over the summer," the watchdog's director Rami Abdel Rahman said.
"The regime is looking to make real gains. There are battles in all of these areas being hit," said Abdel Rahman.
The Britain-based Observatory reported 11 air raids on villages and towns across the northwestern province of Idlib, where regime forces and rebels have been locked in fierce fighting over the Wadi Daif military base.
According to the Observatory, two men were killed and dozens wounded in the Idlib strikes, "and the number of dead is likely to rise due to the presence of severe injuries."
UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon yesterday voiced bitter frustration at the failure of the cease-fire and stressed the need for international unity to end the violence.
"I am deeply disappointed that the parties failed to respect the call to suspend fighting," Ban said in Seoul, where he received a peace prize from his home country.
"This crisis cannot be solved with more weapons and bloodshed," Ban said, calling on the UN Security Council, regional countries and all parties "to live up to their obligations and promote a cease-fire."
The crisis is going from bad to worse, UN-Arab League peace envoy Lakhdar Brahimi said after talks in Moscow with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov.
"The situation is bad and getting worse," Brahimi told reporters, lamenting that the truce he had helped broker had collapsed.
Meanwhile, a Syrian government official says a car bomb in a Damascus suburb has killed 10 people.
The official said the blast yesterday in Jaramana also wounded 41 people and caused heavy damage.
Chinese Muslim separatists from the northwest region of Xinjiang are battling Syrian government forces alongside Al-Qaeda and other extremist groups, an official Chinese newspaper reported yesterday.
Radicals among China's ethnic Turkic Uighur minority have been traveling to Syria since May to join the fighting on trips organized by groups opposed to Beijing's rule over Xinjiang, the Global Times reported yesterday.
Citing unidentified Chinese anti-terrorism authorities, it said the groups were funding their activities through drug and gun trafficking, kidnapping and robbery, and providing training for "separatists, criminals and terrorists" who had fled Xinjiang.
"After receiving orders from Al-Qaeda , terrorists from China came to Syria to meet with jihadists already on the ground before forming groups on the front lines," the report quoted an unidentified official as saying.
The Foreign Ministry said it had noted the report and called for stronger international cooperation in dealing with organizations seeking to overthrow Chinese rule in Xinjiang.
Such groups "not only damage China's state security, but threaten other countries' peace and stability," spokesman Hong Lei said at a regularly scheduled news conference.
The Global Times report singled out two groups as funneling fighters to Syria; the East Turkistan Islamic Movement and the East Turkestan Education and Solidarity Association based in Turkey. East Turkistan was the name given to two short-lived independent Uighur republics in Xinjiang, a vast Central Asian region of mountains and deserts that has been flooded with ethnic Chinese settlers in recent decades.
While the report could not immediately be verified, Chinese anti-terrorism expert Li Wei said Uighur fighters have taken part in the conflicts in Chechnya and Afghanistan, and maintain an active presence in Muslim communities from Southeast Asia to the Middle East.
"Whether they are there is a matter to verify from the facts, but the history suggests it is a possibility," said Li, director of the Anti-Terrorism Research Center at the China Institutes of Contemporary International Relations, a think tank affiliated with the Ministry of State Security, China's main intelligence agency.