BEIRUT: A mortar bomb attack in a Christian neighborhood of Damascus killed eight people Sunday, state media said, as Islamist extremists, mainstream rebels and Kurdish groups in the north negotiated a precarious truce.
State news agency SANA said three “mortar bombs fired by terrorists landed ... in the neighborhood of Qassaa, killing eight civilians and wounding 24 others.”
Another three people were wounded when a fourth mortar slammed into the Holy Cross church in the neighborhood, it added.
Syrian rebels have set up a series of rear bases on the outskirts of the capital, from which they regularly target central Damascus with rocket and mortar fire.
In the north, according to pro-opposition media, residents of the village of Atme near the border with Turkey were waiting to see whether a truce negotiated Saturday among three warring sides would hold.
The agreement was reached between the mainstream FSA, a number of Islamist rebel brigades, and Kurdish fighters.
The agreement stipulated that the FSA maintain control of key areas, “in cooperation with all other factions present in the border areas.”
The Kurdish PKK and YPG armed groups, as named in the agreement, agreed to release prisoners they have taken and all sides were called on to return the bodies of slain fighters.
Fighting pitting the Al-Qaeda-linked Islamic State of Iraq and Greater Syria (ISIS) against an FSA battalion and Kurdish groups has been raging intermittently in several northern villages and towns.
Opposition media said the flashpoint town of Azaz in rural Aleppo saw a demonstration Sunday by residents who demanded that ISIS pull its fighters out of the town, allow the retrieval of bodies of fallen fighters from the Northern Storm Brigade of the FSA, and a release of prisoners it was holding in its jails.
Residents Saturday staged a general strike in some areas of Azaz to express their rejection of ISIS, reportedly demanding that the Islamist group focus on confronting the regime militarily.
Mainstream opposition media and activists have accused ISIS of stepping up a campaign of fighting against other rebel groups in a number of areas in Syria’s north and northeast, in a bid to prevent its rivals obtaining supplies from across the Turkish border.
Elsewhere, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said at least 28 people were killed – 20 pro-regime fighters and eight civilians – during fighting Saturday between regime and rebel forces in Tartous province.
The fighting, on the outskirts of the Sunni Turkmen village of Mitras in Tartous, which has a large Alawite population, ended after “wanted people” inside were turned over to the army, the Observatory said.