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Syria accuses rebels of terrorism

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By The Associated Press
Sunday, March 31, 2013, 9:09 p.m.

Heavy shelling in a neighborhood in the northern city of Aleppo sent civilians fleeing for their lives on Sunday, and the state news agency accused rebels trying to topple the government of setting fire to three oil wells.

Syria's civil war has battered the country's infrastructure and torn its social fabric. After more than two years of conflict, neither President Bashar Assad's regime nor the rebels fighting for his ouster appear close to victory.

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said civilians were vacating the Sheikh Maqsoud neighborhood of Aleppo under heavy shelling by government forces.

Rebels took over parts of the neighborhood late last week and were still clashing with Assad's troops who are trying to push them out. The Observatory, which relies on a network of contacts inside Syria, said four people, including two children, were killed in the shelling.

In the east, the state news agency SANA said rebels had set fire to three oil wells in the province of Deir al-Zour, causing a daily loss of 4,670 barrels of oil and 1,836 cubic feet of natural gas. It accused “terrorists,” the government's term for rebels, of setting the fires after fighting among themselves about how to divide the oil.

Rebels battling Assad have seized large areas of territory in Syria's oil-rich east, including a number of oil fields. Although they lack the ability to exploit them, their loss represents a setback to the cash-strapped government they are trying to overthrow.

SANA said rebels have burned a total of nine wells in recent months. The three set ablaze on Sunday are the only ones still burning.

Also on Sunday, the government and the opposition blamed each other for killing a group of people found dead near the Lebanese border.

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