DAMASCUS: At least 14 civilians, including seven children, were killed Sunday when rebels in Syria shelled a government-controlled neighborhood in the northern city of Aleppo, the government and an activist group said.
The state news agency said the shelling took place in Aleppo’s al-Midan neighborhood, once a center for the city’s thriving Armenian community.
The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights also reported that 14 were killed in the shelling, which it said took place early Sunday from a nearby rebel-controlled area. The group said government air raids on an adjacent neighborhood killed a child. The Observatory relies on a network of activists on the ground.
Aleppo, once the commercial center of Syria, has been divided since 2012, with government forces controlling much of western Aleppo and rebel groups in control of the east.
Also Sunday, Al-Manar TV, owned by Lebanon’s Hezbollah group, and the Observatory both reported that a cease-fire has taken hold in two predominantly Shiite villages in the Syrian province of Idlib and a border town near Lebanon. The cease-fire, the third such agreement negotiated since August, comes after intense fighting between rebels and pro-government forces in the areas, including at least seven suicide bombings in the villages.
Fighting over the border town, Zabadani, has raged since July after Hezbollah fighters joined the government forces to repel the rebels. The rebels, who once controlled Zabadani, retaliated by attacking the villages of Foua and Kfarya. Control of Zabadani is important for pro-government forces, as it lies near the road between Damascus and Lebanon.
Earlier Iranian-mediated talks collapsed over evacuation and safe passages for rebels and civilians from the areas. The Observatory said more than 60 rebel fighters, half of them foreigners, and at least 40 pro-government militia fighters have been killed in the fighting near Foua village since Friday.
The rebel coalition, known as the Army of Conquest alliance, includes Syria’s al-Qaida branch, the Nusra Front, and the extremist Jund al-Aqsa group, and is backed by Turkey and Saudi Arabia. Aside from the two-government controlled villages, Idlib province is in the hands of rebels.