07/20/2012, 00.00
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The battle for Damascus continues as rebels take over border posts

With 302 deaths, yesterday was the worst day since the start of the uprising. Syria's national security chief was among the dead. Rebels seize border posts with Turkey and Iraq. After Russia-China veto at the Security Council, the UK and the US announce new initiatives in favour of the rebels. Moscow complains.

Beirut (AsiaNews) - The battle for Damascus continues to rage. Loyalist soldiers have retaken the capital's al-Midan district. The rebels have seized instead two important posts on the borders with Iraq and Turkey.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said that yesterday's death toll reached 302, the highest since the uprising began 16 months ago. General Hisham Ikhtiyar, head of Syria's National Security Council, was among them. He had been wounded two days ago during an attack in which Syria's defence and interior ministers were killed.

Reports coming out of Turkey say that another general, the 21st, has defected, crossing into Turkey. He would be the third in as many days.

The controversy over the veto imposed by Russia and China in the Security Council on a resolution to toughen sanctions against the Syrian regime refuses to die down.

British Foreign Secretary William Hague said that the UK plans to help the rebels. "There are several things we can do: first of all to give more practical support to the Syrian opposition." However, "We do not give lethal support," he added.

The US ambassador to the United Nations said that Washington and its allies have plans to use against the Syrian government outside of the United Nations.

Russia sharply criticised the US over this. "If such declarations and such plans are elements of actual policy, I think that is a very, very alarming signal to all of us," Russia Foreign Ministry spokesman Alexander Lukashevich told a weekly briefing.

Meanwhile, rebels seized border posts with Turkey and Iraq to make it easier to get aid through.

On the Turkish border, they seized the Bab al-Hawa crossing, but the intervention of helicopter forced them to retreat from Abu Kamal (pictured).

Iraq is vetting the possibility of closing its entire border with Syria, Iraq's Deputy Interior Minister Adnan al-Assad told al-Jazeera after the attack against Abu Kamal border crossing. The latter is on the Damascus-Baghdad highway, one of the most important trade routes in the Middle East.

The Iraqi official said that when rebels took over the border post, they "executed 22 Syrian soldiers in front of the eyes of Iraqi soldiers".

"If this situation continues, we are going to close the entire border with Syria," he added. (PD)

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