WASHINGTON (AP) — Two top lawmakers are calling for an immediate U.S. military response to the Syria's suspected chemical weapons attack that killed at least a hundred civilians last week.
Republican Sen. Bob Corker is calling for the U.S. to respond in a "surgical and proportional way, something that gets their attention." The Tennessee lawmaker says such a response should not involve U.S. troops on the ground, however.
Democrat Rep. Eliot Engel of New York says the U.S. must respond "quickly," together with NATO allies, possibly using cruise missile strikes, as the U.S. and NATO did in Libya.
A senior administration official said Sunday there is "very little doubt" a chemical weapon was used, but added the president had not yet decided how to respond.
Corker and Engel appeared on "Fox News Sunday."
GENEVA (AP) — The number of registered child refugees fleeing Syria's violence has topped the 1 million mark in another grim milestone of the deepening conflict, two U.N. agencies said Friday.
Roughly half of all the nearly 2 million registered refugees from Syria are children, and some 740,000 of those are under the age of 11, according to the U.N. refugee and children's agencies.
"This one millionth child refugee is not just another number," said Anthony Lake, the head of UNICEF, the U.N. children's agency. "This is a real child ripped from home, maybe even from a family, facing horrors we can only begin to comprehend."
The children's ordeals are not over once they escape Syria, said Antonio Guterres, the head of the Office for the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees, known as UNHCR.
"Even after they have crossed a border to safety, they are traumatized, depressed and in need of a reason for hope," he said.
His agency said it tries to ensure that babies born in exile are provided with birth certificates, preventing them from becoming stateless, and that all refugee families and children live in some form of safe shelter.
But the threats to refugee children are rising, the agencies say, including child labor, early marriage and the potential for sexual exploitation and trafficking. More than 3,500 children in Jordan, Lebanon and Iraq have crossed Syria's borders unaccompanied or separated from their families, according to the U.N. figures.
The agencies say some 7,000 children are among the more than 100,000 killed in the unrest in Syria, which began in March 2011 and later exploded into a civil war.
Most of the refugees fleeing Syria have arrived in Lebanon, Jordan, Turkey, Iraq and Egypt. However, U.N. officials say that increasingly Syrians are fleeing to North Africa and Europe.
The two U.N. agencies estimate that more than 2 million children also have been displaced within Syria.
U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said Friday the real number of Syrian refugees is "well over 2 million" if unregistered refugees are counted.
"The situation in Syria continues to worsen. The humanitarian suffering is alarming. Sectarian tensions have been ignited. Regional instability is spreading," Ban said in a speech in Seoul, South Korea.
"It is heartbreaking to see all these young people, children and women and refugees, who do not have any means, any hope for their country," he said. "They do not know when they will be able to return to their country."
BEIRUT (AP) — Syrian activists say President Bashar Assad's forces are pressing on with a military offensive in the rebel-held eastern Damascus suburbs where the opposition says a chemical weapons attack killed over 100 people.
The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights says it had no word on casualties in Thursday's bombing of eastern Ghouta.
The government has denied as "absolutely baseless" allegations it used chemical weapons in artillery barrages there on Wednesday.
The U.S., Britain and France have demanded that a team of U.N. experts already in the country be granted immediate access to investigate the site.
Opposition figures and activists have reported widely varying death tolls, from 136 to as high as 1,300. But even the most conservative tally would make it the deadliest alleged chemical attack in Syria's civil war.
BEIRUT (AP) - Two Syrian pro-opposition groups are claiming that government forces carried out a "poisonous gas" attack near the capital Damascus, leaving dozens of people dead.
The two groups quote activists as saying that regime forces fired "rockets with poisonous gas heads" in the attack on Wednesday.
The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights says the shelling was intense and hit the eastern suburbs of Zamalka, Arbeen and Ein Tarma.
It says "tens of people" were killed. The Local Coordination Committees said hundreds of people were killed or injured in the shelling. Such different figures are common in the immediate aftermaths of attacks in Syria.
There was no government comment on the claims and the reports could not be independently confirmed.
BELFAST, Northern Ireland (AP) — President Barack Obama will appeal to Northern Ireland's youth to sustain their peace in his first opportunity to highlight the role the United States has played helping bring about reconciliation in the country.
Obama arrived at Belfast on Monday morning. After his Belfast speech he will attend a two-day summit of the Group of Eight industrial economies.
Later Monday he was to meet on the sidelines of the summit with Russian President Vladimir Putin. Topics for the two leaders range from Syria to arms control. Russia has criticized Obama's decision to arm Syrian rebels and has dismissed U.S. claims that President Bashar Assad's regime has used chemical weapons against Syrians.
Russia is a member of the G-8. So are Canada, Japan, Britain, France, Italy and Germany.
BEIRUT (AP) — Syrian State TV is reporting that President Bashar Assad's army is now in full control of the embattled border town of Qusair, where fighting raged with rebels for nearly three weeks.
The state TV said on Wednesday that regime troops "restored security and peace" after successfully dismantling the "terrorist networks" operating in the town over the last few days.
Lebanon's Al-Mayadeen TV, which has reporters embedded with Syrian troops, was reporting live from the town, showing images of damaged buildings. The reporter said there was no sign of fighting.
Government troops, backed by Lebanon's Hezbollah fighters, began a wide offensive on the strategic town, which lies near the Lebanese border, on May 19.
BAGHDAD (AP) — The Syrian government says it has agreed "in principle" to take part in an international conference in Geneva next month aimed at ending the country's civil war.
Syria's Foreign Minister Walid al-Moallem says his government believes that the conference, proposed by Russia and the United States, is a "good opportunity for a political solution for the crisis in Syria."
Al-Moallem did not elaborate in the joint Sunday news conference with his Iraqi counterpart shortly after he arrived in Baghdad for an unannounced visit.
The Syrian crisis began in March 2011 with pro-democracy protests and morphed into a bloody civil war. More than 70,000 people have been killed and several million displaced since the uprising against President Bashar Assad erupted.
BEIRUT (AP) - A Syrian activist group says Israel's weekend airstrike on a sprawling military complex near the Syrian capital Damascus has killed at least 42 Syrian soldiers.
The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said Monday that the toll is based on information from sources in Syrian military hospitals.
The Syrian government has not released a death toll. Immediately after Sunday's predawn strike, Syrian state media said the attack caused casualties, but did not elaborate.
So far, Israel has carried out three airstrikes in Syria this year, according to Israeli and U.S. officials, though Israel's government has not formally confirmed involvement.
The officials say the attacks were meant to prevent advanced Iranian weapons from reaching Lebanon's Hezbollah militia, a Syria ally and Israel foe.
BEIRUT (AP) — Syrian rebels shot down a military helicopter in the country's east, killing eight government troops on board a day after opposition forces entered a sprawling military air base in the north, activists said Monday.
In the past months, rebels fighting to topple President Bashar Assad have frequently targeted military aircraft and air bases in an attempt to deprive his regime of a key weapon used to target opposition strongholds and reverse rebel gains in the 2 year old conflict.
The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights on Monday posted a video online showing several armed men standing in front of the wreckage. One of the fighters in the footage says it's a helicopter that the rebels shot down late Sunday in the eastern province of Deir el-Zour, along Syria's border with Iraq.
As the man speaks, the camera shifts to a pickup truck piled with bodies. The fighter is then heard saying that all of Assad's troops who were aboard the helicopter were killed in the downing. He says Islamic fighters of the Abu Bakr Sadiqq brigade brought down the helicopter as it was taking off from a nearby air base in the provincial capital of Deir el-Zour.
The Observatory, which relies on a network of activists on the ground, said eight troops were killed.
On Sunday, rebels occupied parts of a military air base in northern Syria after days of fighting with government troops who were defending the sprawling facility near the border with Turkey for months, the Observatory said.
Assad's warplanes were pounding rebel positions inside the Mannagh air base Monday as clashes between rebels and government forces raged on, the Observatory said, adding there was an unknown number of casualties on both sides.
The day before, rebels moved deep into the air base despite fire from government warplanes, capturing a tank unit inside the base and killing the base's commander, Brig. Gen. Ali Salim Mahmoud, according to another activists group, the Aleppo Media Center.
The fighting came hours after Israeli warplanes struck areas in and around the Syrian capital, setting off a series of explosions as they targeted a shipment of highly accurate, Iranian-made guided missiles believed to be bound for Lebanon's Hezbollah militant group, officials and activists said.
The attack, the second in three days and the third this year, signaled a sharp escalation of Israel's involvement in Syria's civil war. Syrian state media reported that Israeli missiles on Sunday struck a military and scientific research center near Damascus and caused casualties.
The Syrian conflict started with largely peaceful protests against President Bashar Assad's regime in March 2011, but eventually turned into a civil war that has killed more than 70,000 people according to the United Nations.
More than one million Syrians have fled their homes during the fighting and sought shelter in the neighboring countries such as Jordan, Lebanon and Turkey. Millions of others have been displaced inside Syria.
DAMASCUS, Syria (AP) — Syrian state TV and residents of Damascus say a powerful explosion has hit the country's capital.
The nature of Tuesday's explosion in the heart of Damascus was not immediately clear. Resident say they heard a powerful blast and saw thick, black smoke billowing from behind a group of buildings.
Gunfire was heard in the area immediately after the Tuesday morning blast.
Syrian TV says the explosion occurred in the central district of Marjeh, although the target was not immediately clear.
The blast comes a day after Syria's prime minister narrowly escaped an assassination attempt in the heavily protected area of Damascus.