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U.N. Syria envoy calls on Assad to start truce
No grand plan » Brahimi presented the cease-fire as a “microscopic” step that could provide the basis for a longer truce.

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He said the regime has been bombing villages in the area for more than a week and had destroyed many homes.

"The planes are hitting us as revenge," said the activist, who gave his name as Qais al-Idlibi. "They can’t make progress on the ground, so they are hitting us from the air."

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He said the remaining civilians sleep outside in fields for fear of airstrikes, and the shooting boosted their morale.

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights also reported the helicopter downing, saying the debris fell in the village of Baseeda.

The activists’ claims and videos could not be independently verified.

The rebels have previously claimed in videos posted on the Internet to have downed government aircraft, although opposition commanders insist their weapons are no match for the regime’s airpower.

French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius told reporters on Wednesday that at least some rebels now have heavier weapons, which have recently forced military aircraft "to fly very high." Speaking in Paris ahead of a meeting on aid to Syria, Fabius said Assad’s warplanes are dropping so-called barrel bombs and cluster bombs on rebel-held areas.

Barrel bombs are makeshift weapons consisting of containers stuffed with TNT. Earlier this month, Syrian refugees said their villages in the central Homs province had come under heavy air attack from barrel bombs.

Human Rights Watch on Sunday cited allegations that Assad’s government has been using cluster bombs — indiscriminate scattershot munitions which are banned by most nations — basing its conclusions on amateur video and testimony from the front lines.

The Syrian military has denied using such bombs.

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The civil war has displaced more than 1 million Syrians inside the country and sent hundreds of thousands more over the borders to seek refuge in neighboring nations.

On Wednesday, U.N. humanitarian chief Valerie Amos said more than half of Syria’s health facilities have been destroyed or damaged in the war and many children are not getting vaccinated or going to school. She also expressed concern over those near Syria’s borders who have not been allowed to leave the country.

Syria’s state-run news agency criticized the European Union for imposing additional sanctions against Damascus as "unjustified" measures that have "no legal or moral basis as they contradict international law."

The E.U. on Monday increased pressure on Assad’s regime, prohibiting the provision of any financial services to Syrian arms exports, banning the country’s national carrier from the 27-member bloc’s airports. It also added 28 people to those whose assets are frozen and who are denied E.U. visas.

A ban on Syrian cargo flights is already in place, as is an obligation for E.U. countries to inspect ships or planes suspected of carrying arms to Syria.

Copyright 2014 The Salt Lake Tribune. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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