Fighters say Syrian warplanes drop cluster bombs Brahimi arrives in Damascus

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Syrian regime warplanes have dropped cluster bombs in sorties against rebels in the northwestern town of Maaret al-Numan, the fighters told AFP on Friday.

The fighters showed an AFP correspondent in the battleground Idlib province town debris from one such cluster bomb and dozens of other bomblets that failed to explode on impact.

On Sunday, Human Rights Watch issued a statement accusing the Syrian air force of using cluster bombs against the rebels and in populated areas across the strife-torn country.

The Syrian army denied the allegations, saying it did not possess such weapons.

Barahimi arrives in Damascus

U.N. and Arab League envoy Lakhdar Brahimi arrived on Friday in Damascus as he bids to secure a ceasefire in Syria’s 19-month conflict, an AFP journalist said.

Brahimi was received at Damascus airport by Syria’s deputy foreign minister, Faisal Muqdad, and was scheduled to meet Foreign Minister Walid Muallem on Saturday.

Brahimi will also meet President Bashar al-Assad “very, very soon,” spokesman Ahmad Fawzi told AFP on Thursday.

The veteran Algerian diplomat has called for a ceasefire during the four-day Muslim holiday of Eid al-Adha that begins October 26.

He arrived in Syria following a regional tour to countries that play influential roles in the crisis -- Egypt, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Iran, Iraq, Lebanon and Jordan.

Meanwhile, Syria’s air force carried out raids on Friday morning against fighters besieging a major military base in the northwestern province of Idlib, said the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

“Military aircraft dropped bombs that targeted rebels camped near (the base at) Wadi Deif,” concentrating their firepower on the villages of Talmans and Maashemsha, said the Britain-based monitoring group.

The insurgents have launched what they call a “final assault” against the strategic military camp of Wadi Deif where about 250 soldiers have been holed up for days. The base also houses tanks and fuel.

The battle for the base has killed at least six soldiers, according to the Observatory, which said that the facility has been surrounded by around 2,500 rebel fighters.

To the west of the base, regime warplanes battered a residential area of the rebel-held town of Maaret al-Numan on Thursday, killing at least 49 people, almost half of them children, rescuers told an AFP correspondent at the scene.

The air strikes destroyed two housing complexes and a mosque, where many women and children had been taking refuge, in the strategic northwestern town. Among those killed was a nine-month-old baby.

All of the victims buried under the rubble of the residential buildings had been retrieved, but bodies were still under the rubble of the nearby mosque, according to the rescuers and hospital officials.

Violence across Syria killed 168 people on Thursday -- 70 civilians, 61 soldiers and 37 rebels, said the Observatory, which relies on a network of activists, medics and lawyers for its information.

It says more than 34,000 people have been killed in Syria since the outbreak of an uprising against Assad regime in March last year.

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