Syria death toll tops 160 on Monday as foreign minister blames violence on rebels, foreign support


Syrians inspect damages in the old city of Aleppo after the area was shelled by Syrian regime forces on September 30, 2012. Forces loyal to President Bashar al-Assad shelled rebel-held areas across Syria as fierce clashes were reported in Aleppo where a fire tore through a medieval souk.

Opposition groups report that at least 164 people were killed across Syria on Monday, CNN reported.

Intense clashes were reported in Aleppo, while 42 were reported killed in the city of Idlib, and 51 in the Damascus area, according to the Local Coordination Committees of Syria. The Syrian city of Hama is seeing large-scale destruction as regime forces drive out residents and demolish their homes, CNN reported.

Residents of the city told CNN that bulldozers and tanks have destroyed homes in the city, displacing thousands of residents from a city that has seen heavy fighting.

The violence came the same day that Syria's foreign minister, Walid al-Moualem, appeared at the United Nations General Assembly. In a speech, al-Moualem appeared to sidestep any culpability on the part of the Syrian regime for the current civil war raging across Syria and spilling across borders into neighboring countries, instead blaming the rebels and foreign support for the violence.

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In fact, the Syrian regime has been implicated in some of the worst violence of the 18-month-old crisis, including heavy aerial bombardments that have struck hospitals and residential buildings. The death toll from the months of violence has been estimated at over 30,000 people.

CNN noted that the demolition in Hama aroused fears from 30 years ago, when what came to be known as the Hama Massace of 1982 saw much of the city leveled and thousands killed as the Syrian regime sought out dissidents to kill.

"The 1982 massacre is regarded as the single bloodiest assault by an Arab ruler against his own people in modern times and remains a pivotal event in Syrian history," the Guardian wrote of the event.

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Also in Syria on Monday, Aleppo's historic old city and marketplaces, or souks, continued to burn after catching fire over the weekend. Those areas had been designated World Heritage Site's by the UN's cultural and historic preservation arm, UNESCO.

"Reportedly UNESCO now estimates that of the six World Heritage Sites in Syria, five have been damaged in the fighting," wrote the editor of the Middle East Institute's journal. "That is a cultural disaster; the human disaster is more urgent of course, but the world is losing irreplaceable monuments."

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