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Helicopters, tanks shelled Syrian town before massacre

Demonstrators gather as they protest against Syria's President Bashar al-Assad in Bennish, near Idlib July 13, 2012. U.N. observers in Syria described an attack on a village in the Hama region in which about 220 people were reported killed as part of a continuing Syrian air force operation, the U.N. mission said in an assessment obtained by Reuters on Friday. The banner reads, "The Syrian Revolution of dignity, Bennish are free".

Abdo/REUTERS

Rebels smuggling arms into Syria

Syrian rebels are smuggling small arms into Syria through a network of land and sea routes involving cargo ships and trucks moving through Turkey, Lebanon and Iraq, maritime intelligence and Free Syrian Army officers say. Western and regional powers deny any suggestion they are involved in gun running. Their interest in the sensitive border region lies rather in screening to ensure powerful weapons such as surface-to-air missiles do not find their way to Islamist or other militants.

The steady trickle of relatively unsophisticated arms making its way to forces opposing President Bashar al-Assad is being financed mainly by wealthy individuals in Saudi Arabia and Qatar, a security source said, as well as from expatriate Syrian supporters.

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Russian ship on the move

A Russian cargo ship carrying military helicopters and air-defence equipment for the Syrian government, forced to turn back last month after U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton criticized the shipment and a British company revoked the vessel's insurance, is again on the move.

The ship, the Alaed, which has emerged as something of a barometer of Russia's s intentions toward the government of President Bashar al-Assad, was reported heading south off Norway's northern coast as of Thursday.

That location put the vessel close to a flotilla of four Russian naval vessels bound for the eastern Mediterranean Sea off the coast of Syria, as part of a Russian naval buildup in the area announced earlier this week, ostensibly for training exercises.

Internet database MarineTraffic.com registered the ship's presence off the Norwegian coast on Thursday.

With files from The Associated Press and The New York Times.

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