Syrian warplanes pound rebel-held town near Lebanese border, activists say

The Associated Press

Louay Safi, right, spokesperson for the Syrian National Coalition, Syria's main political opposition group, leaves a press briefing with Anas al-Abdeh, center, a member of the Syrian National Coalition at the United Nations headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland, Switzerland, Wednesday, Feb 12, 2014. Russian Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs Gennady Gatilov arrived in Geneva and met with U.N. mediator Lakhdar Brahimi who was pessimistic over any progress at the talks. (AP Photo/Anja Niedringhaus)

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"I do hope that the Russians will put enough pressure on the regime delegation to be flexible," said Anas al-Abdeh, a member of the opposition negotiating team.

Louay Safi, another opposition figure, called on Russia to "respect the Syrian people."

A trilateral meeting involving Gatilov, U.S. Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs Wendy Sherman and Brahimi is scheduled to be held in Geneva on Thursday to discuss the deadlock. The meeting was brought forward by one day although no explanation was given.

Lebanon's Mayadeen TV and Hezbollah's Al-Manar TV said the Syrian army has started "a wide-scale military operation in Yabroud." In the early afternoon, Assad's troops took control of the village of Jarajir and surrounding hills on the Syrian side of the border, Syria's state-run news agency said.

In Syria, more civilians were expected to leave the embattled city of Homs before an extended cease-fire expires at midnight Wednesday, Syrian Red Crescent said in a statement.

The aid organization has been part of the relief effort in Homs since Friday, when the U.N.-brokered humanitarian truce went into effect. Its statement said the staff entered the city earlier Wednesday to deliver 190 food parcels and 190 bags of flour.

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Karam reported from Geneva. Associated Press photographer Hussein Malla in Wadi Hmaied, Lebanon contributed to this report.

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