BEIRUT

Middle East

No let-up on the ground as peace conference kicks off

A Syrian man inspects the damage following shelling by pro-regime forces in the northern Syrian city of Aleppo on January 22, 2014. (AFP PHOTO/FOUAD HALLAK)

BEIRUT: A missile attack Wednesday on an opposition area in northern Syria killed 10 people, including five children and three women, as peace talks opened in Switzerland, a monitoring group said.

Fighting raged across much of Syria as regime and opposition delegates attended the international peace conference aimed at ending a nearly 3-year-old civil war that has claimed more than 130,000 lives.

“Two men, three women and five children were killed when a missile – believed to be a surface-to-surface missile – hit the Maasranieh area of Aleppo city,” said the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a Britain-based group.

Once Syria’s commercial capital, Aleppo has been the scene of intense fighting since a rebel offensive there in July 2012.

In the middle of December President Bashar Assad’s regime launched a massive aerial campaign in which it dropped barrels filled with explosives on residential areas, killing hundreds of people and drawing widespread condemnation.

Elsewhere in Aleppo, rebels and regime forces clashed as the army tried to advance on the Azizieh neighborhood and a nearby industrial area. “The army is trying to take advantage of the fact the rebels are also fighting the Islamic State of Greater Syria (ISIS), to try to advance on Aleppo,” said Abu Omar, an activist in the province.

Fierce clashes between rebel groups and the jihadists of ISIS were reported in the towns of Manbij, Azaz and Aziza, all in rural Aleppo.

In Darkoush, in Idlib province, fresh clashes broke out between ISIS and other opposition groups, and a child was killed in the crossfire, said the Observatory.

Further south, Assad’s forces shelled rebel positions in the Seidnaya area near Damascus, while fighting in Zabadani nearby killed at least 10 soldiers, including three officers, according to the Observatory.

Regime helicopters meanwhile dropped highly destructive so-called barrel bombs in the central Hama province, said the group, which relies on a network of activists and other witnesses inside the country.

The use of barrel bombs has been widely condemned by rights groups because such weapons fail to distinguish between fighters and civilians.

In Homs, where rebel-held areas have been under siege for nearly 600 days, troops shelled the contested Waar neighborhood, home to thousands of people who have fled their homes in other parts of the city.

“The situation on the ground has not changed at all despite the talks opening in Switzerland. All the main front lines are still extremely violent, just like yesterday,” the Observatory said.

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on January 23, 2014, on page 5.

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Summary

A missile attack Wednesday on an opposition area in northern Syria killed 10 people, including five children and three women, as peace talks opened in Switzerland, a monitoring group said.

Elsewhere in Aleppo, rebels and regime forces clashed as the army tried to advance on the Azizieh neighborhood and a nearby industrial area.

Further south, Assad's forces shelled rebel positions in the Seidnaya area near Damascus, while fighting in Zabadani nearby killed at least 10 soldiers, including three officers, according to the Observatory.

In Homs, where rebel-held areas have been under siege for nearly 600 days, troops shelled the contested Waar neighborhood, home to thousands of people who have fled their homes in other parts of the city.


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