On the ground in Syria Friday, a monitoring group said the government sent reinforcements, including tanks and armored personnel carriers, to a predominantly Christian village north of Damascus where rebels have battled government troops this week. Opposition fighters led by an al-Qaida-linked rebel faction had attacked the ancient mountainside sanctuary of Maaloula and briefly entered the village. The assault has spotlighted fears among Syria’s religious minorities about the prominent role of Islamic extremists in the rebel ranks fighting to overthrow Assad.
Meanwhile, the Kremlin said Russia was boosting its naval presence in the Mediterranean Sea, moving warships into the area. That was stoking fears about a larger international conflict if the United States orders airstrikes.
The U.S. already has five Navy destroyers armed with Tomahawk missiles on standby in the Mediterranean.