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Activists: Government rocket kills 6 in Syria

By The Associated Press

This article was published January 23, 2013 at 9:15 a.m.

— A rocket fired by Syrian regime forces slammed into a northern rebel-held village Wednesday, killing six members of a single family, activists said, while Turkey’s foreign minister called on the international community to declare the Syrian regime’s bombardment of its own citizens a war crime.

With violence escalating and hopes of a political solution dwindling, Russia announced for the first time that it has evacuated families of its diplomats in Syria some time ago but said it is not planning a large-scale evacuation of the tens of thousands of its citizens still in the country.

Russia has been the main protector of President Bashar Assad, shielding him from U.N. sanctions over his crackdown on an uprising that began in March 2011.

In Moscow, Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov sought to play down the significance of evacuation of 77 of its citizens who had fled Syria and were flown back to Moscow on Wednesday. He told reporters that about 1,000 Russians residing in Syria contacted consular officials to express their interest in leaving the country, but no large-scale evacuation was immediately planned.

Both sides have increased attacks over the past weeks as diplomatic efforts have floundered with the opposition rejecting any dialogue with Assad in power and Syrian officials saying the president will stay until the end of his term in mid-2014, and will be running for re-election.

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