Fight­ing in north­ern Syria kills 23, in­clud­ing 11 chil­dren

Baltimore Sun - - WORLD - By Sarah El Deeb

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.

ABD DOUMANY/GETTY-AFP

A Syr­ian boy makes a run for it Sun­day in the rebel-held town of Douma, near Da­m­as­cus.

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