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Syrian airstrike kills 9 near border with Lebanon

BEIRUT – Syrian warplanes struck targets near the volatile border with Lebanon on Saturday, killing at least nine people, the Lebanese state-run news agency said.

The warplanes targeted the rebel-held town of Yabroud inside Syria, just across from Lebanese villages thought to house Syrians who fled from a government offensive in June, a Lebanese security official from the eastern Bekaa region said. Both sides in the Syrian civil war have allies and supply lines in Lebanon.

The official confirmed the casualties, which included nine wounded. He said those killed included six members of the same family. He spoke on customary condition of anonymity in line with regulations.

Also on Saturday, rebels captured an arms depot near Damascus, seizing weapons and ammunition from the regime, activists said.

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said that militants of the al-Qaida-affiliated Jabhat al-Nusra group led the assault on the depot in Qalmun district north of the capital. Caches of ammunition, rockets and anti-tank missiles were part of the war booty, the Observatory said.

It was a rare battlefield success by the rebels in recent months. The government has been on the offensive in the country's heartland and has retaken territory, although rebels are sometimes reported to overrun military facilities and villages.

The Observatory relies on reports from a network of informants on the ground.

Syria's main opposition coalition meanwhile urged the release of a Catholic priest who disappeared earlier this week while visiting a rebel-held city in the country's northeast.

Paolo Dall'Oglio, an Italian Jesuit priest, went missing on Monday in the city of Raqqa.

Both rebels and pro-regime forces have abducted political foes, members of rival sects and wealthy families around Syria and others, including foreign journalists, to settle scores or for ransom.

The Western-backed Syrian National Coalition said it was "deeply concerned" over the disappearance of the priest.

"We urge all parties involved in the disappearance of Father Paolo to immediately come forward and release him," the coalition said in a statement released in Istanbul on Saturday. It described the priest as a "wise man of peace and compassion" who engaged in interfaith dialogue with Muslims and forged close ties with people all over Syria.

Dall'Oglio is a critic of the regime of President Bashar Assad, which the rebels are fighting to overthrow. A year ago, the government expelled him from Syria, where he had lived for 30 years, mostly at the Mar Musa monastery north of Damascus.

Activists said Dall'Oglio went to Raqqa last week to meet with al-Qaida-linked militants. The city, which fell to the rebels in February, has seen tensions between the hard-liners and more moderate rebel groups over how to administer it.

Dall'Oglio is the third Christian cleric believed to have been kidnapped in northern Syria this year.

In April, two Orthodox bishops were abducted. They have not been heard of since.

Gunmen pulled Bishop Boulos Yazigi of the Greek Orthodox Church and Bishop John Ibrahim of the Assyrian Orthodox Church from their car and killed their driver on April 22 as the group was traveling near the northern city of Aleppo. It was not clear who abducted the priests. No group has publically claimed it is holding the clerics.

More than 100,000 people have been killed since the beginning of Syria's uprising.

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