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As Fighting Rages, Arab League Cancels Meeting on Syria
Goran Tomasevic/Reuters

Free Syrian Army fighters run for cover during clashes in Aleppo on Sunday.
By DAMIEN CAVE
Published: August 12, 2012

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ISTANBUL — The Arab League postponed a meeting on Syria that had been scheduled for Sunday, as Syrian authorities reported continued fighting in Aleppo and two bomb attacks in Damascus.
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The bomb attacks occurred in the upscale Marjeh district of Damascus, suggesting that rebels are still active in the capital — and increasingly turning to explosives in their evolving guerrilla campaign. Last week, a bomb tore through Syria’s state television headquarters; a month earlier, another explosion killed four senior military and intelligence officials.

No one was injured in the attacks on Sunday, Syria’s state news agency reported, but the first blast was set off remotely as soldiers passed by in a vehicle. It was a device planted under a tree about 100 yards from the Four Seasons hotel, The Associated Press reported.

The second blast went off around the same time a half mile away near a soccer stadium, and both blasts were followed by gunfire “to provoke panic,” Syrian authorities said.

Also on Sunday, Al-Arabiya reported that a journalist working with the channel was killed Saturday by a separate bomb attack in a suburb north of Damascus. Bara’a Yusuf al-Bushi, the journalist killed, was a defector from the Syrian army who worked with several international news organizations. Syria’s state news agency said on Sunday that one of its journalists had also been killed, a day after reporting that, in a separate incident, rebels had kidnapped one of its television news crews.

The incidents highlight the risks that journalists in Syria face as the government tries to limit access and as rebels and President Bashar al-Assad put a premium on propaganda. Over the course of the war, there have often been conflicting accounts of events, most of them difficult to independently verify.

Earlier this year, the Committee to Protect Journalists identified Syria as the third most censored country in the world, just behind North Korea.

More recently, there has been an increase in the number of international reporters entering the country, and wire services like Reuters have found ways to establish what amounts to a full-time local presence. But as that presence has expanded, so have the risks. Several reporters moving in and out of Aleppo recently have described close calls as the Syrian military has shelled the city and, lately, begun firing from fighter jets.

Opposition leaders on Sunday said that despite reports that their fighters are running low on arms and ammunition, the fight continues. Several neighborhoods of Aleppo saw clashes Sunday as the war for the city, Syria’s largest, edged into its third week.

The Arab League said its meeting on Syria would be rescheduled. An official told Reuters that it had to be postponed because of a minor operation undergone by Saudi Arabia’s foreign minister, Prince Saud al-Faisal.

The announcement came a day after Turkey and the United States agreed to accelerate preparations for the possible fall of Syria’s president, Bashar al-Assad, creating a formal bilateral team to assist the opposition, providing aid to fleeing refugees and planning for worst-case outcomes that could include a chemical weapons attack.

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