Syrian youths collect wood from rubble to be used for heating and cooking, on December 27, 2016, in the Damascus rebel-held eastern suburb of Zamalka. / AFP / AMER ALMOHIBANY
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Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov was quoted Tuesday as saying that the Syrian government was consulting with the opposition ahead of possible peace talks, but a Saudi-backed opposition group said it knew nothing of the negotiations.The Syrian army, meanwhile, escalated aerial bombing of a rebel-held valley northwest of Damascus in an offensive begun last week to recapture the strategic area where a major spring provides most of the capital's water supplies, rebels and residents said.Russia said that a U.S. decision to ease restrictions on arming Syrian rebels had opened the way for deliveries of shoulder-fired anti-aircraft missiles, a move it said would directly threaten Russian forces in Syria.The U.S. State Department responded late Tuesday that the U.S. was not providing any shoulder-fired anti-aircraft missiles to the Syrian opposition.Through a series of so-called settlement agreements and army offensives, the Syrian government has been steadily suppressing armed opposition around the capital.The Syrian army has blamed rebels for polluting the springs with diesel fuel in a move the water authorities said had forced them to cut supplies coming into the capital and resort to reserves to temporarily cover the shortfall.
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