Russia insisted on Saturday it was not “clinging” to any individual leaders in Syria despite Moscow’s refusal to back international calls on President Bashar al-Assad to step down, as clashes resumed in Syria’s main cities of Damascus and Aleppo, leaving more victims.
As many as 100 people were reported to have been killed by the fore of Syrian forces across the country on Saturday, Al Arabiya reported citing activists at the Local Coordination Committees.
“We are not clinging to any political figures,” Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Gennady Gatilov said in brief comments reaffirming the country’s official position.
“And anyone who claims otherwise is distorting the picture,” Gatilov told the Interfax news agency.
Yet he also signaled that Russia would block any new U.N. Security Council efforts to put pressure on Assad after 17 months of violence that activists say has claimed more than 27,000 lives.
“It is only through the political process -- and not through any decision of the U.N. Security Council -- that the Syrians should determine the future of their state and its make-up,” he added, according to AFP.
Russia and China jointly vetoed three rounds of sanctions against Assad after having earlier effectively giving the go-ahead to an air campaign on Libya that they strongly opposed.
Both countries said they were tricked into the Libya decision and vowed to fight for a political solution to the Syria crisis despite growing diplomatic pressure.
Gatilov said Russia would respect any decision on Assad’s future reached by the Syrians themselves.
“We will respect any agreements reached in the course of this (internal Syrian) dialogue,” said the diplomat.
On the ground, clashes erupted in Damascus and Aleppo, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.
In Aleppo the army battled with rebels at the entrances to the rebel-held Bustan al-Basha district and helicopter gunships attacked the opposition bastions of Hanano, Qadi Askar, Sheikh Khader, Bustan al-Qasr and Sakhur, the monitoring group said.
After a week of fighting over the central district of Midan, the army had taken most of the area and set up checkpoints for the first time, an AFP correspondent said.
But the Observatory said that clashes between rebels and the army continued in the flashpoint district.
Residents of Midan had blocked off a contested street with tires and posted a small sign which read: ‘Beware of snipers,’ the correspondent said.
The Local Coordination Committees reported that an unknown number of people were killed or trapped under the rubble of a three-storey residential building that collapsed when the Sheikh Fares neighborhood was shelled.
Regime forces also carried out air strikes against a rebel-held police station in Hanano for the second day in a row, after similar attacks on two police branches in Midan on Friday.
At least one rebel was killed in fighting in Aleppo, which has been the focal point of the Syrian conflict since mid-July, according to the Britain-based Observatory.
Outside Aleppo, air strikes during the night killed at least 12 civilians and wounded around 60 in al-Bab, doctors in the rebel-held town told AFP on Saturday.
Two fighter jets carried out a series of raids on the town in northern Syria between 4 pm (1300 GMT) Friday and 4 am (0100 GMT) Saturday, hitting homes and empty school buildings, a doctor at the town’s hospital said, asking not to be identified.
In one of the homes hit, four people lost their lives, three of them women, the father of one of those killed told AFP.
Near Damascus, a child and five rebels -- including a Palestinian defector from the Syrian army -- were killed by shelling and sniper fire in the southern suburb of al-Hajar al-Aswad where regime forces deployed in force, the Observatory said.
It said that a Palestinian protester was also killed during a demonstration in the Yarmuk camp, the largest Palestinian refugee camp in Syria.
Clashes broke out at the edges of the Damascus suburb, the watchdog said, while one civilian was killed in the northeast suburb of Duma and two civilians were killed elsewhere in the province.
In the southern province of Deraa, fierce clashes erupted between rebel fighters and government troops as the army tried to retake the Lajat area -- considered the most important rebel stronghold in the province.