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Lawmakers seek military, humanitarian aid to Syria

Calls stop short of ground troops

Free Syrian Army fighters ran to avoid sniper fire on Sunday in the Salaheddine neighborhood of Aleppo, Syria’s largest urban center.

Zaid Rev/Reuters

Free Syrian Army fighters ran to avoid sniper fire on Sunday in the Salaheddine neighborhood of Aleppo, Syria’s largest urban center.

WASHINGTON — Lawmakers in both parties on Sunday urged President Obama to take stronger action in the Syrian civil war, with some Republicans calling for Obama to arm rebels and possibly establish a no-fly zone, and some Democrats urging the administration to step up humanitarian aid.

The lawmakers’ remarks, on the Sunday morning television talk shows that are a public policy staple in the capital, followed revelations that the Syrian leader, Bashar Assad, had likely used chemical weapons against his own people.

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Obama has said that the use of such weapons would be a ‘‘red line’’ that would prompt a US response, and said Friday that any use of chemical weapons by Syria would be ‘‘a game changer.’’

In Syria on Sunday, rebels fought intense battles with Assad’s troops to try to seize control of three military air bases in the country’s north and curtail the regime’s use of its punishing air power, the Associated Press reported, citing reports from activists.

Rebels have been trying to capture the air fields for months.They broke into the large Abu Zuhour air base in northwestern Idlib Province and Kweiras base in the Aleppo Province on Saturday. Fighting raged inside the facilities Sunday, but the rebels had not taken full control of the sites.

Lawmakers sought to remind viewers Sunday of Obama’s declaration of a “red line’’ on chemical weapons.

‘‘The president has laid down the line, and it can’t be a dotted line. It can’t be anything other than a red line,’’ said House Intelligence Committee chairman Mike Rogers, a Michigan Republican.

Senator Lindsey Graham, Republican of South Carolina, and John McCain, Republican of Arizona, both said Sunday that they favor a greater US role in Syria but oppose sending in American ground troops.

McCain, who has called for establishing a no-fly zone to neutralize Syria’s air defenses, said on NBC’s ‘‘Meet the Press’’ that ‘‘the worst thing the United States could do right now is put boots on the ground in Syria — that would turn the people against us.’’

A White House spokesman said Thursday that the Syrian government had probably used the agent sarin in the two-year-old civil war that has displaced hundreds of thousands and resulted in 70,000 deaths.

Democrats speaking on the Sunday shows, including Senator Claire McCaskill of Missouri and Representative Keith Ellison of Minnesota, seemed less inclined to step up military aid and more focused on providing humanitarian assistance to displaced Syrians.

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