BEIRUT: Syrian helicopter gunships killed at least six people Friday when they dropped barrel bombs on the strategic rebel stronghold of Yabroud, close to the Lebanese border, the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.
Syria’s state news agency said the attacks followed a string of raids by regime warplanes around the town, which the army is trying to recapture as part of a campaign in the Qalamoun region to cut off rebel supply lines stretching toward the border with Lebanon and secure the Damascus-Homs highway.
The government has been increasing its use of barrel bombs in its fight against rebel forces since the end of last year. The crude devices are typically constructed of an oil drum filled with explosives and shrapnel and are rolled out of a helicopter once the fuse is lit.
Barrel bombs were also dropped on the Aleppo neighborhood of Sukkari in north Syria, killing four people including at least one child, according to the Observatory, which documents the fighting in Syria through a network of activists across the country.
The group also said three children and a woman died after an airstrike in the Maslamieh neighborhood.
In a monthly report released Friday, the Violations and Documentation Center, an anti-government monitoring group, said that 1058 civilians had died in Aleppo in February, the highest toll of any province that month.
In the central province of Hama, meanwhile, at least 14 members of the regime’s security forces and nine rebels were killed Friday in fighting for the town of Morek, which is on a key army supply route.
Rebel forces seized Morek a month ago.
And in the northeast, fierce clashes erupted between government forces and the jihadist Islamic State of Iraq and Greater Syria (ISIS) after midnight around the regime’s Base 17 camp near the city of Raqqa, the Observatory said.
Raqqa is the only city in the hands of ISIS, after Islamists fighters forced government troops out a year ago.
More than 140,000 people have been killed in Syria since the start of the uprising in March 2011.