Fighting in northern Syria kills 23, including 11 children
BEIRUT — At least 11 children were among 23 killed Sunday in northern Syria as pro-government forces kept up their campaign against opposition areas in the country’s north, while rebels shelled a government-held district in Aleppo.
At least eight more people were killed in a suspected airstrike on a crossing point connecting Kurdish-held areas with rebel areas in northern Aleppo province, the Kurdish security force said.
The violence Sunday comes a day after government troops repelled a rebel offensive on western parts of Aleppo launched in late October. State news agency SANA said the shelling of a western Aleppo district killed four, including two women and a child.
Aleppo has been deeply divided since 2012. The faltering rebel offensive was designed to break the siege on opposition-held eastern Aleppo.
The government siege left an estimated 275,000 people trapped with no aid allowed in since July, amid a punishing bombing cam- paign. The rebel offensive started after Russia, a major Syrian government ally, said it would halt airstrikes to allow rebels and supporters to leave eastern Aleppo. The rebels refused to take up the offer, and the United Nations failed to negotiate allowing in aid to the besieged area, amid wide anticipation of an imminent pro-government offensive.
Residents of eastern Aleppo on Sunday said for days they got text messages urging them to leave in the next 24 hours. It was not possible to immediately verify the authenticity of the messages or who sent them. Government aircraft had previously dropped fliers on the eastern districts also urging residents to leave and make use of the Russian-declared passageways to evacuate the besieged district.
Three residents said they received the messages Friday and Sunday throughout the day, denouncing the opposition and threatening residents with an attack.
Later Sunday, the Aleppo Media Center and the Syrian Civil Defense in eastern Aleppo said artillery shelling by the government hit a car and killed 11 people, many of them children.
While airstrikes on eastern Aleppo have subsided, aerial bombings of rebelheld western parts of Aleppo province continued. The Syrian Civil Defense, which operates in oppositionheld areas, said one of its centers was bombed in rural Aleppo and put out of service in airstrikes on the town of Atareb. The strikes also killed three people, including two children.
Meanwhile, a suspected airstrike is believed to have struck at a border crossing in Kurdish-held Afrin Canton, which links the area to rebel-held parts of Aleppo province, the Kurdish security force, known as the Asayish, said Sunday. The Asayish statement, carried by the Kurdish news agency Hawar, said the bombing occurred early Sunday. The Observatory put the death toll from the explosion there at 12.
In the complex terrain of northern Syria, it was not immediately clear who was behind the bombing.
Near Damascus, opposition activists said airstrikes in Khan al- Shih hit a mosque around dawn Sunday, killing at least two people, including the mosque’s cleric.
A Syrian boy makes a run for it Sunday in the rebel-held town of Douma, near Damascus.