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Syrian troops leaflet rebel areas

Syrian government aircraft have scattered leaflets over the northern province of Idlib calling on rebels to hand themselves over and urging foreign fighters to return to their homelands, as regime troops pressed on with the battle to retake areas they had lost to the opposition.

The call came after another bloody day in Syria. The British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, which has a network of activists on the ground, said 40 civilians and 70 fighters - both regime troops and rebels - were killed in clashes nationwide.

President Bashar Assad's regime has called on opposition fighters in the past to lay down their arms, and it was unlikely the latest call would be heeded, either by Syrians or foreign fighters battling in the province.

The battle for the Idlib province is just one of a series of clashes flaring lately as a concerted push by government forces seeks to dislodge rebels who have seized control of large swaths of the country.

The Observatory also reported clashes in the northern province of Aleppo, which abuts the Turkish border and serves as a rebel gateway for bringing in weapons and supplies.

There was also fighting in towns on the outskirts of the capital Damascus, and the southern province of Daraa. Syrian troops, alongside fighters from the Lebanese Shiite Hezbollah group, were encircling the neighborhoods of Khaldiyeh and Bab Houd in the central city of Homs, which rebels have held for the past year.

"The war here is now from building to building. They are trying to take the area a block at a time," said activist Tariq Badrakhan. He said Syrian forces were "cleaning" the area of rebel fighters by firing mortar shells at buildings, with the heaviest shelling occurring at dawn.

In Idlib province, rebels have besieged the provincial capital, also called Idlib, over the past two weeks, causing food shortages and price hikes, an activist based in the city, Mohammad Kanaan, said.

He said rebels had set up checkpoints, blocking some roads with large rocks and destroying others, and preventing food and other basic supplies from entering, in an effort to force the civilians to leave so they could storm the city.

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