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Syrian airstrikes kill more than 20 overnight, group says

By Laura Smith-Spark and David Simpson, CNN
updated 4:16 PM EDT, Sat August 10, 2013
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Attacks are reported in Syria's Latakia province, bordering Turkey
  • United States, Russia reiterate the importance of a political process to end violence
  • The death toll in the civil war is more than 106,000, a human rights group says
  • The conflict has created an estimated 1 million refugees

(CNN) -- Syrian military airstrikes killed more than 20 people in a province bordering Turkey, an opposition group said Saturday.

Warplanes carried out the attacks in the mountainous Latakia province in the overnight hours, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported on its Facebook page.

The group estimates Syria's civil war, now in its third year, has killed more than 106,000 people and created more than 1.8 million refugees.

Syria was high on the agenda in a meeting Friday between U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel and their Russian counterparts, Sergey Lavrov and Sergey Shoygu.

But no concrete commitments emerged from the talks at the State Department.

Pentagon spokesman George Little said the leaders had "exchanged views on Syria and the importance of supporting a political process to end the violence."

"Our goal is the same. We need to start a political process," Lavrov said before the four met. He urged the holding of a second conference on Syria in Geneva, saying the priority must be to "fight terrorists and force them away from Syria."

The Syrian government also refers to the rebel fighters as terrorists.

Rebel fighters

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said Wednesday that at least 62 Syrian rebel fighters had been killed in an ambush in the Damascus countryside.

The state-run Syrian Arab News Agency said that Al-Nusra Front "terrorists" had been ambushed and killed in the same region and that non-Syrian fighters were among the dead.

The Al-Nusra Front, or Jabhat al-Nusra, a militant Sunni Islamist movement, is one of the rebel groups taking up arms against President Bashar al-Assad's regime.

A day earlier, the Observatory reported that Syrian rebels and an al Qaeda-affiliated group had captured a government air base near the key city of Aleppo.

Fighters from the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria and various rebel battalions destroyed several tanks and killed a number of regime soldiers as they fought for control of the Menagh air base, the Observatory said. At least 10 rebel fighters, including foreigners, also died, the group said.

The Islamic State of Iraq is the rebranded name for al Qaeda in Iraq. The group changed its name after its founder, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, was killed by a U.S. missile strike in 2006.

The Menagh air base is north of Aleppo, Syria's largest city and financial hub.

For many months, rebels have tried to wrest control of the city in their attempt to end four decades of rule by al-Assad's family.

CNN's Khushbu Shah contributed to this report

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