August 21, 2012 in Nation/World

Syrian attacks kill 100

Obama explains ‘red line’ for U.S.
Associated Press
Associated Press photo

Syrians Bassem Kharfani, left, and Mahmoud Jikar sit at the door of Jikar’s house, one of more than a dozen homes heavily damaged by Syrian government bombing last week that killed more than 40 people, in Azaz, Syria, Monday.
(Full-size photo)

TEL RIFAT, Syria – Government forces pummeled the battered city of Aleppo with airstrikes and tanks and shelled parts of Damascus and southern Syria Monday, killing at least 100 people during a major Muslim holiday, rights groups and activists said.

The violence escalated dramatically after a one-day lull on Sunday, the start of the three-day Eid al-Fitr holiday, which marks the end of the holy month of Ramadan. The renewed fighting showed President Bashar Assad’s regime is not letting up on its drive to quell the 17-month-old uprising out of respect for the occasion.

In Washington, President Barack Obama said U.S. thinking on military involvement in Syria would change if chemical or biological weapons came into play in the civil war. He told reporters the use of such weapons of mass destruction would widen the conflict considerably.

“It doesn’t just include Syria. It would concern allies in the region, including Israel, and it would concern us,” Obama said, warning the Assad regime and “other players on the ground” that the use or movement of such weapons would be a “red line” for the United States. The U.S. has been reluctant to intervene militarily so far.

Last month, the Syrian regime confirmed for the first time that it possessed chemical weapons by threatening to use them in case of any foreign aggression. The warning was seen as a sign of desperation as Assad’s grip on power slipped. It came shortly after rebels assassinated four of the president’s top security officials, the biggest blow to the regime in the entire uprising.

Since the holiday began on Sunday, an air of gloom has blanketed the nation and activists said there have been no signs of jubilation.

Adding to the despair, two main activist groups – The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights and the Local Coordination Committees – said that 12 bodies shot execution-style were found in the Qaboun district in the capital Damascus. Activist Omar al-Khani said the bodies, which included two children, were found on the side of a road with clear signs of torture on their bodies. Some were naked, others handcuffed.

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