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   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.

Published in National News

   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.

Published in National News

   BAGHDAD (AP) — Iraqi officials say at least 14 people have been killed in clashes between Sunni protesters and security forces in a northern Sunni town.

   Sheikh Abdullah Sami al-Asi, a Sunni provincial official from the town of Hawija, says the fighting began early on Tuesday morning when security forces entered the protest area in the town and tried to make arrests.

   Provincial health director Sidiq Omar Rasool says there are at least 14 protesters killed. He says the clashes also wounded more than 50 demonstrators and six members of Iraqi security forces.

   Hawija is 240 kilometers (160 miles) north of Baghdad.

   A United Nations spokeswoman in Iraq, Eliana Nabaa, confirmed that there are multiple casualties. She urged both sides to immediately lay down their weapons.

Published in National News
JERUSALEM (AP) — Israeli police say Gaza militants have fired two rockets at southern Israel on the second day of President Barack Obama's visit to the region.

Spokesman Micky Rosenfeld says one rocket exploded in the courtyard of a house in the border town of Sderot, causing damage but no injuries. The other landed in an open field.

As a presidential candidate in 2008, Obama visited Sderot, which is frequently targeted by rocket attacks from the nearby Gaza Strip. The territory is ruled by the militant Palestinian Hamas group.

No group immediately claimed responsibility for Thursday's attack, which came as Obama was in Jerusalem. He is to visit the West Bank city of Ramallah later in the day.
Published in National News
JERUSALEM (AP) — President Barack Obama is set to plunge into the turbulent Middle East on a mission aimed primarily at assuring America's top ally in the region and its friends back home that it will not be forsaken amid bitter domestic political squabbles and budget crises in Washington.

Obama arrives today in Israel for his first visit to the country — and only his second to the Middle East, outside of a quick jaunt to Iraq — since taking office.

He will also be making his first trips as president to the Palestinian Authority and Jordan this week. But on an itinerary laden more with symbolism than substance, an Israel that is increasingly wary of developments in Syria and Iran will be the main focus of his attention.
Published in National News
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