Tue, Oct 09, 2012 - Page 6 News List

Rebel strongholds in Syria under attack, 23 killed

AFP, BEIRUT

A handout picture released by the Syrian Arab News Agency shows a Syrian firefigher working at the site of a car bomb attack at police headquarters in Damascus on Sunday.

Photo: AFP / SANA

A string of rebel strongholds, including in Daraa and Homs provinces and the commercial capital Aleppo, were rocked by shelling and clashes from dawn yesterday that left at least 23 people dead, a watchdog said.

Twenty of the deaths occurred when the army launched an intensive pre-dawn assault on the town of Karak al-Sharqi in Daraa Province, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.

Meanwhile, two civilians were killed when troops rained shells down on pockets of rebel resistance in Aleppo, Syria’s commercial capital, while another civilian died when the town of Kfar Zeita, in Hama Province, was bombed, the Britain-based watchdog said.

Among those killed in Karak al-Sharqi were at least five rebel fighters, said the Observatory, which added that some of the deaths occurred when troops blasted cars ferrying wounded people to field hospitals and clinics for medical attention.

“Karak al-Sharqi has suffered repeated military assaults, heavy shelling and attempts to storm it over the past three days,” said the Observatory, which collates its information from a network of activists and medics on the ground.

It added that the town was facing “a crippling blockade and terrible medical and humanitarian conditions.”

In Homs, the army bombarded the rebel stronghold of Khaldiyeh from the early morning using warplanes, tanks, shells and mortars in a concerted multi-pronged attack, the Observatory said.

“There is heavy shelling, as well as fierce clashes around the district, but the rebels are resisting the army onslaught,” Observatory director Rami Abdel Rahman said.

Elsewhere in Homs Province, the town of Houla came under heavy bombardment by government forces, which left an unknown number of wounded, he said.

In March, at least 108 people, including 49 children and 34 women, were killed during a two-day army offensive that began with heavy shelling.

The northern city of Aleppo, which since mid-July has been the focal point of the revolt against the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, was rattled from early morning by shellings that hit a string of rebel-held neighborhoods, as well as by firefights between rebels and troops, the watchdog said.

The violence comes a day after 15 people, including five children, were killed in shelling across Aleppo.

On Sunday night, a car bomb struck the Damascus police headquarters, killing a policeman, according to the official news agency SANA.

Abdel Rahman of the Observatory confirmed the toll.

“Not more than one or two people were killed in the blast,” he said.

Elsewhere, Syrian mortar fire again struck a Turkish border village, prompting artillery retaliation from Turkey, in what have become daily such incidents since Wednesday night.

The Syrian mortar round struck hit Akcakale — site of a similar strike on Wednesday that killed five civilians.

The latest mortar round hit the grounds of a public building without causing casualties, Turkey’s NTV news channel reported, adding that the building had been evacuated beforehand.

Turkey’s parliament on Thursday gave the government the green light to use military force against Syria if necessary.

Akcakale Mayor Abdulhakim Ayhan was quoted by Turkey’s semi-official Anatolia news agency as saying that Sunday’s mortar firing prompted an immediate response by Turkish artillery.

The UN Security Council has strongly condemned cross-border attacks by Syria and called for restraint between the two neighbours, whose ties have nosedived, with Ankara supporting the rebels fighting al-Assad’s regime.

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