What you need to know about Syria today

Updated 8:54 PM EDT, Fri August 31, 2012
02:38 - Source: CNN
Are Syrian forces targeting civilians?

Story highlights

U.N. refugee agency reports a rise in Syrians entering eastern Lebanon

Clashes between regime forces and rebels are reported in Aleppo, Homs and Daraa

Shells fired from across the border land in Lebanon, security forces say

30 regime soldiers killed in fighting with rebel forces, opposition group says

CNN —  

Clashes were reported Friday in Aleppo and Homs, two centers of opposition to Syrian government forces.

The Local Coordination Committees of Syria, an opposition group, reported 112 deaths throughout the country Friday, including 38 in and around Damascus.

Here are the latest key developments in the nearly 18-month crisis:

On the ground: Shelling, violence continue

In Aleppo, scene of fierce fighting in recent weeks, rebel fighters clashed with government forces in the Saif al-Dawla, Hanano and Sakhour neighborhoods, the opposition Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.

Regime forces shelled several neighborhoods, it said.

The Local Coordination Committees of Syria network also reported clashes involving rebel forces in Aleppo’s Ithaa neighborhood, in which a regime officer and 30 soldiers were reportedly killed.

Government forces killed a “large number of terrorists” heading from the countryside toward Aleppo on Thursday and destroyed their armed vehicles, the state-run Syrian Arab News Agency reported Friday.

Elsewhere, heavy artillery shelling by regime forces pummeled the town of Eastern Bowaida, in Homs province, the LCC said. At least 12 people were injured and a number of homes destroyed, it said.

Syrian state TV said government forces had clashed with an “armed terrorist group” in Homs and had inflicted big losses. Government forces also raided a “terrorist den” in Homs province, where they seized weapons, ammunition and communication devices, SANA reported.

Clashes were also reported by the LCC in Harasta, in the Damascus suburbs, and in parts of Daraa.

The region: Shells hit Lebanon

Shells fired from Syria landed in the region of Akkar, in northern Lebanon, early Friday, Lebanese Internal Security Forces said. A Lebanese soldier was wounded and three villages were damaged.

Meanwhile, the United Nations refugee agency cited a rise in the number of Syrian refugees arriving in eastern Lebanon’s Bekaa Valley, with about 2,200 people reportedly settling in the area over the past week.

About 400 people a week are arriving in northern Lebanon, U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees spokesman Adrian Edwards said Friday in Geneva.

Many refugees are staying in schools that are meant to reopen for the new school term shortly, the agency says, highlighting the need for alternative shelter to be found.

Diplomacy: Buffer zone debated

The idea of a United Nations-sanctioned buffer zone inside Syria to provide refugees with a haven and help distribute humanitarian aid was raised at a U.N. Security Council meeting in New York on Thursday, but received a lukewarm response.

Deputy U.N. Secretary-General Jan Eliasson said that it was “a subject for careful and critical consideration,” but that the difficulty of ensuring protection for those within such a zone and the diplomatic implications of such a step would make it a tricky proposition for the Security Council.

U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees Antonio Guterres said he was in favor of more humanitarian aid for all areas of Syria, but “all borders should remain open to protect those who would seek international protection,” or asylum.

Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu suggested certain “practical steps” should be taken by the Security Council to deal with the humanitarian disaster in Syria, including a visit to refugee camps in neighboring countries.

So far, about 80,000 Syrian refugees have sought sanctuary in Turkey.

Meanwhile, the Non-Aligned Movement summit continued Friday in Iran, whose theocratic Shiite regime backs Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. Egyptian President Mohamed Morsy slammed al-Assad’s government in his remarks at the summit Thursday, saying it was “an oppressive regime that has lost its legitimacy.”

CNN’s Hamdi Alkhshali and Nada Husseini contributed to this report.