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From a distance, Syria 'feels' like Iraq in 2004

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More generally, fighting raged around the country, with government war planes strafing rebel positions and civilian neighborhoods in rebel-held areas alike. More than 150 people were killed across Syria, many civilians, on Monday.

To be sure, there are stark differences between Iraq then and Syria now. There has been no foreign invasion or occupation, and there are lots of specific differences between the two countries. While Iraq under Saddam had a Sunni-dominated Baathist government and a Shiite majority, in Syria the Alawite sect of Bashar al-Assad is dominant politically and Sunnis are dominant numerically.

A further wrinkle is the presence of the descendants of Palestinians who lost their homes in the foundation of Israel, and now number more than 400,000 people.

The Palestinian community in Syria appears split. While many have taken up arms against Assad, still others have fought on his behalf. There have been persistent claims of Palestinian militiamen from Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine - General Command fighting on the side of Assad's forces in some districts of the capital.

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