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Jordan Jails Syrians over Bid to Smuggle Detonators

A Jordanian court on Tuesday sentenced three Syrians to five years in prison each for trying to smuggle 36 remote control detonators into their country to help anti-government rebels.

Civilian judges at the military state security court found the three men guilty of carrying out acts "that would harm Jordan's relations with another country, exposing the kingdom to the danger of reprisal acts," a judicial official told AFP.

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Report: Syria to Announce Presidential Vote Date Next Week

The speaker of Syria's parliament will next week announce the date of the country's presidential election, expected to be held around June despite the conflict, Al-Watan newspaper reported.

The daily, which is close to the government, said Mohamed Jihad Lahham would make the announcement next week, but gave no details on the date for the vote.

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Al-Manar Reporter Hajj Hassan Killed with Cameraman, Technician in Maalula

An al-Manar television crew came under gunfire Monday during its coverage of the Syrian army's recapture of the Christian town of Maalula from rebel hands, which resulted in the death of the reporter Hamza al-Hajj Hassan along with a cameraman and a technician.

Al-Manar said 27-year-old Hajj Hassan and his two colleagues -- cameraman Mohammed Mantash and technician Halim Allaw -- were killed when "armed groups" opened fire at their convoy in Maalula.

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Torture 'Routinely' Used in Syria, Says U.N. Rights Chief

The U.N.'s human rights chief on Monday condemned the "routine" use of torture in Syrian detention facilities, as a new report said victims were raped, beaten and had their teeth and toenails pulled out.

Navi Pillay said torture was routinely used in government detention facilities as well as by some armed groups in Syria, where more than 150,000 people have been killed in a bloody civil war.

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Syria Chemical Arms Handover Nearly Two-Thirds Complete

Syria has surrendered almost two-thirds of its chemical weapons with the resumption of transfers from the war-torn country, the global chemical watchdog said Monday, although it again pressed Damascus to step up efforts.

"The Syrian government has completed the delivery of the 13th consignment of chemicals," the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) said.

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Hizbullah Shifts Tactics, Narrative for Syria Fight

Hizbullah is gaining new combat experience in Syria, shedding its guerrilla tactics to fight alongside an army, and shifting its narrative to explain the battle against "Sunni extremists".

Its forces, who used their homeground advantage and methods such as underground tunnels against Israel's army in Lebanon, are now the targets of unconventional warfare on unfamiliar terrain in Syria.

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Syria Army Retakes Christian Town of Maalula

Syrian troops retook the ancient Christian town of Maalula from rebels Monday, a day after President Bashar Assad said the three-year old civil war was turning in his favor.

"The army has taken full control of Maalula and restored security and stability. Terrorism has been defeated in Qalamun," a security official told Agence France Presse, referring to the region in which Maalula is located.

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Assad Says War Turning in Regime's Favor

President Bashar Assad said Sunday that the war that has torn Syria apart for three years and cost more than 150,000 lives is turning in the government's favor, state news agency SANA reported.

"This is a turning point in the crisis, both militarily in terms of the army's achievements in the war against terror, and socially in terms of national reconciliation processes and growing awareness of the truth behind the (attacks) targeting the country," he said.

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Fierce Air Raids on Rebel Bastions in Damascus Province

Syrian warplanes on Sunday launched an offensive against a string of opposition bastions on the edges of the capital, including the besieged Eastern Ghouta area, a monitoring group said.

"Warplanes carried out two air strikes against areas of Douma," northeast of Damascus, said the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

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Syrians Trade Blame over 'Poison' Attack in Hama

A regime air strike in Hama province of central Syria caused "suffocation and poisoning", an NGO said Saturday, while state media accused rebels of releasing chlorine gas.

Elsewhere, fighting raged all day in Aleppo near an air force intelligence base, with the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights labeling it "the most violent since the beginning of the battle" in the northern city in mid-2012.

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