Mortar Shells Hit Damascus College; Deaths Reported

(CNN) - As many as 15 people were killed Thursday when mortar fire struck a college in Syria's capital, the government said.

Shells hit the Architecture College in Damascus.

State media said 15 people were killed and others were wounded after "terrorists fired mortars." The government refers to anti-government groups as "terrorists." The state-run Syrian Arab News Agency said a shell struck the cafeteria of the architectural engineering faculty.

The opposition Local Coordination Committees of Syria said 12 people died in the incident. They were among 79 killed in warfare across the county Thursday, the group said.

The crisis in Syria began two years ago when the government of Bashar al-Assad cracked down on peaceful protesters. That clampdown morphed into a full-blown civil war.

More than 70,000 people are believed to have been killed, the United Nations estimates. The warfare has spawned a vast humanitarian and displacement crisis.

Time for a no-fly zone?

International diplomacy has failed to forge peace as the warring rages daily.

Syrian rebels have been obtaining weapons from entities outside the country and have seized arms from the well-stocked military. But Western nations have been reluctant to arm factions opposing the Assad government.

One official who helped a failed effort to bring about a cease-fire in Syria says it's time for a bit of a change.

Norwegian Maj. Gen. Robert Mood, former head of the U.N. monitoring team in Syria, told the BBC on Wednesday that it's time for the world to consider imposing a no-fly zone, an area over which aircraft are not allowed to fly.

Al-Assad's government regularly has used its aircraft to attack rebel positions.

"To level the playing field now in the military terms would be to consider no-fly zones, to consider whether the Patriots in Turkey could have a role also in taking on some responsibility for the northern part of Syria," he said. Patriots, which are surface-to-air missiles, have been deployed to Turkey to protect the country.

The U.N. Security Council imposed a no-fly zone in Libya in 2011 to halt the violence by the Moammar Gadhafi government. That effort helped rebels there topple Gadhafi. No-fly zones were also imposed by Western nations in Iraq during the rule of Saddam Hussein.

A no-fly zone would help an interim government take hold in territory that rebels have seized from the Syrian military. The opposition has chosen Ghassan Hitto, a Syrian-American, to be the prime minister of that government.

Mood said a no-fly zone should be accompanied by planning for a transition.

"The next thing to argue is incredibly important. It is useless to discuss or to consider a no-fly zone unless you are thinking beyond it, unless you are already then starting to plan."

If the government should quickly collapse, he asks, "what next then?"

He also says the world must look at how international diplomacy can be used to "achieve results with military means that strengthen the moderates inside Syria."

The world must also think about reconstruction after the war is ended and getting humanitarian aid "to the women and children and the suffering Syrian population."


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