x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 25 July 2017

Syria regime jets bombard rebel-held border town

UAE and Saudi Arabia again advise citizens to avoid Lebanon amid fear of retaliation.

AZZAZ // Syrian fighter jets bombed the rebel-held town of Azzaz near the Turkish border yesterday, reducing homes to rubble and killing at least eight, including a baby.

The attack came as the United Nations released a report accusing Bashar Al Assad's forces and their militia backers of war crimes for killing more than 100 civilians - nearly half of them children - in the village of Houla in May.

It said the civil war was moving in a "brutal" direction on both sides.

In Damascus, rebels exploded a bomb attached to a fuel truck near the military's central security command centre and a hotel housing UN observers.

The bomb sent a column of black smoke into the sky over the capital and injured at least three soldiers. "There was a huge explosion and a fireball," a military officer said.

A spokesman for the Revolution Leadership Council of Damascus said the Free Syria Army's Al Moustafa Brigade carried out the attack, and Mr Al Assad's "criminal regime" should expect "more of these grand special operations in the very near future". Rebels also attacked government checkpoints in the western district of Mezze and state media said several fighters were killed in the fighting.

The clashes took place close to the prime minister's office, the cabinet's headquarters and the new Iranian Embassy.

Last night the UAE and Saudi Arabia again advised their citizens to avoid Lebanon, amid fear of kidnappings by Shiites angry over rebels in Syria taking prisoners from Lebanon and Iran.

The Foreign Minister, Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed, said on Twitter: "This is the third warning from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Unfortunately the situation in Lebanon is extremely dangerous. I urge my fellow nationals to take this warning with all seriousness."

The Saudi Embassy in Beirut urged its citizens to leave and warned against travel to Lebanon.

* The Associated Press and Agence France-Presse with additional reporting by Alice Fordham and Ola Salem