As its Opponents Clash, Syria Regime Drops Barrel Bombs


Mainstream rebels and al-Qaida-linked jihadists clashed Thursday in northern Syria, as government warplanes battered opposition areas near Damascus with explosives-packed barrel bombs, a monitor said.

"Fierce clashes pitting ISIL against several Islamist and moderate (rebel) groups are raging in Saraqeb, Idlib," the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said, referring to the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant.

The town of Saraqeb is home to ISIL's last remaining position in the northwestern province of Idlib, and has seen heavy fighting since Tuesday.

The fighting is part of a massive offensive launched by forces opposed to President Bashar Assad, who turned against their erstwhile ISIL allies because of the jihadists' quest for hegemony and their horrific abuses.

Enraged by the offensive, ISIL has staged about two dozen suicide and car bomb attacks targeting rival rebel positions in the past two weeks.

The latest attacks hit Aleppo province during the night, said the Observatory.

One was a car bomb attack in the town of Maznar, the other a suicide blast staged near onetime ISIL bastion Atareb by a jihadist wearing an explosive belt.

On Wednesday, at least 26 people were killed in a car bomb attack in Jarabulus, also in Aleppo province.

More than 700 rebels and jihadists have been killed in the fighting that broke out on January 3.

On another front, the Syrian air force dropped powerful explosives-laden barrel bombs on rebel positions near Damascus, including Zabadani and Daraya, said the Observatory.

Under siege for more than a year, Daraya has come under a massive, renewed bid in recent days by troops loyal to Assad to break the opposition's grip over the town.

Meanwhile in the central city of Homs, the number of people killed in shelling on Tuesday of the Ghouta neighbourhood rose to 19, including three children, said the Observatory.

The Syrian conflict, which erupted after Assad unleashed a brutal crackdown on democracy protests in March 2011, has killed more than 130,000 people and forced millions to flee their homes.

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