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Syrian troops bombard town near Lebanon border

This article was published February 15, 2014 at 4:34 p.m.

syrian-citizens-with-their-belongings-loaded-on-trucks-after-fleeing-from-yabroud-the-last-rebel-stronghold-in-syrias-mountainous-qalamoun-region-drive-towards-the-lebanese-syrian-border-town-of-arssal-in-eastern-lebanon-wednesday-in-lebanon-preparations-were-underway-to-receive-more-syrians-fleeing-the-fighting-syrian-warplanes-pounded-a-rebel-held-town-near-the-lebanese-border-on-wednesday-activists-said-as-opposition-leaders-in-geneva-called-on-russia-to-put-pressure-on-the-government-to-prevent-the-faltering-peace-negotiations-from-collapsing

Syrian citizens with their belongings loaded on trucks after fleeing from Yabroud, the last rebel stronghold in Syria's mountainous Qalamoun region, drive towards the Lebanese-Syrian border town of Arssal, in eastern Lebanon, Wednesday. In Lebanon, preparations were underway to receive more Syrians fleeing the fighting. Syrian warplanes pounded a rebel-held town near the Lebanese border on Wednesday, activists said, as opposition leaders in Geneva called on Russia to put pressure on the government to prevent the faltering peace negotiations from collapsing.

BEIRUT — Syrian troops pressed an offensive near Lebanon on Saturday, heavily bombarding a rebel-held town and forcing many residents to flee to safety across the border, activists said.

The violence came as an activist group said the death toll in the three-year Syrian conflict has reached 140,000. The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said the figure includes civilians, rebels, members of the military, pro-government militiamen and foreign fighters.

The group based its count on information from a network of informants on the ground.

The group said violence had escalated of late, with more than 3,400 people killed so far this month even as the government and opposition hold peace talks in Geneva. Since Jan. 22 when talks began, 5,792 people have been killed.

U.N.-Arab League mediator Lakhdar Brahimi ended a mere half hour of direct talks between the Syrian government and opposition Saturday with the situation still at an impasse and the future of negotiations in in doubt. No date was set for a third session.

The U.N.'s human rights office said in January it had stopped updating its own tally of the Syrian dead because it can no longer verify the sources of information that led to its last count of at least 100,000 in late July.

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