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Violence in Syria: Could it engulf the region?

As the Syrian city of Aleppo reels from a spate of suicide bombings and mortar fire, concerns are rising that the fighting could draw in Sunni and Shiite powers in the region

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Sources in Lebanon said seven members of Lebanon's Shi'ite Muslim militant group Hezbollah, a close ally of the Syrian president, were killed inside Syria on Sunday in a rocket attack. Three were killed instantly while four others were wounded and died subsequently, they said.

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The sources said the Hezbollah fighters were operating in the border area, monitoring the flow of weapons into Syria from Lebanon.

Hezbollah's website and television station said the group held funerals this week for two fighters killed while performing "jihadi duties", but gave no further details.

Hezbollah has given strong public political support to its ally in Damascus but has not confirmed a military presence on the ground in Syria - wary of inflaming sectarian tensions in Lebanon, where many Sunni Muslims support the anti-Assad rebels.

The mainly Sunni rebels are supported by Sunni powers including Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Qatar, and have attracted Islamist fighters from across the Middle East to their cause.

Assad, from the Alawite minority which is an offshoot of Shi'ite Islam, is backed by Iran and Russia.

Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Gennady Gatilov said on Tuesday NATO and world powers should not seek ways to intervene in the war or set up buffer zones between rebels and government forces.

He also called for restraint between NATO-member Turkey and Syria, after tensions flared when a mortar round fired from inside Syria struck the territory of Turkey. Ankara has threatened to respond if the strike were repeated.

Iran's President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad warned that hostilities in Syria could engulf the region and accused some Syrians of trying to use the conflict to settle scores with Tehran.

Ahmadinejad said that a national dialogue and elections - rather than war - were the only way to solve the Syrian crisis.

Efforts to address the conflict at the United Nations have been blocked by a standoff in the Security Council between Western powers seeking a tough stance against Assad and Russia and China, which fear a U.N. resolution against Syria would be the first step towards military intervention.

An Egyptian attempt to bring together Egypt, Turkey, Iran and Saudi Arabia to search for a regional solution to the crisis also appeared to be going nowhere after Saudi Arabia stayed away for a second time from a meeting of the four countries.

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