60 Shiite villagers killed as France warns of ‘turning point’ in Syria


DAMASCUS: Despite yesterday's attacks, Bashar al-Assad's regime, dominated by his Alawite sect of Shiite Islam, appears to have gained the upper hand against mainly Sunni Muslim rebels, buoyed by military support from its Shiite allies, Hizbollah and Iran.

With regime forces gaining ground, France said the nearly 27-month conflict, which is estimated to have killed at least 94,000 people, is at a "turning point" and that it is time to review whether to arm the opposition.
The issue of military support is likely to top the agenda when US Secretary of State John Kerry meets in Washington with British counterpart William Hague later today.
"Armed Shiite villagers attacked a nearby rebel post yesterday and killed two. Today (Tuesday) rebels attacked the village and took control of it, killing 60 Shiite residents, most of them fighters," Mr Rami Abdul Rahman, the director of the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, said.
The clashes came in the majority Sunni village of Hatlah, in eastern Deir Ezzor province.
 Earlier in Damascus, two suicide bombings left at least 14 people dead and 31 wounded, and caused widespread damage in the Marjeh neighbourhood, state media and the rights Observatory said.
The Observatory said one of the blasts "was caused by a suicide bomber who blew himself up inside the police station".
Syria's cabinet denounced the attack, saying "armed terrorist groups and those behind them have failed completely because of the victories achieved by our brave army".
Forces loyal to President Assad, including thousands of Lebanese Hizbollah fighters, have overrun rebel fighters in central Syria in the past week, including in the strategic town of Qusayr.
"There are lessons to be drawn from what happened in Qusayr and what is happening in Aleppo," said the French foreign ministry spokesman, Mr Philippe Lalliot.
"We are at a turning point in the Syrian war. What should we do under these conditions to reinforce the opposition armed forces? We have had these discussions with our partners, with the Americans, the Saudis, the Turks, many others.
"We cannot leave the opposition in the current state."
Plans to bring together members of Mr Assad's regime and the opposition at talks in Geneva have so far failed to come to fruition, and Mr Hague at the weekend warned that regime gains on the ground raised new hurdles.


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