Barrel bombs kill 11 civilians in IS town in Syria

BEIRUT, LEBANON- Barrel bombs dropped from Syrian government helicopters on Thursday killed at least 11 civilians, including three children, in raids on a jihadist-held northern town, a monitoring group said.
The crudely constructed weapons were used on Al-Bab, which lies in Aleppo province and is held by the extremist Islamic State group, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

Since Saturday, at least 68 civilians have been killed in aerial attacks on the town.
Observatory head Rami Abdel Rahman said the "intensified air attacks by regime forces on Al-Bab are aimed at foiling IS efforts on multiple fronts," including the nearby Kweyris military airport, which IS has besieged for more than a year.
Al-Bab is strategically important because it is one of IS's closest positions to regime-held parts of Aleppo, he told AFP.
In May, more than 60 civilians were killed by barrel bomb attacks on the town.
Syria's embattled regime has heavily bombarded areas in Aleppo province that have fallen out of its control.
To the west, in Idlib province, an alliance of rebels and Islamist fighters heavily shelled the province's last two regime-held Shiite villages for the second consecutive day.
The "Army of Conquest," an opposition coalition that includes Al-Qaeda's Syria affiliate Al-Nusra Front, began its assault on Fuaa and Kafraya on Wednesday.
"Dozens of shells fell overnight Wednesday and into Thursday morning on Fuaa and Kafraya, which are largely inhabited by Shiite Muslims," the Observatory said.
Abdel Rahman said there were casualties but had no immediate toll.
The Army of Conquest said Wednesday its attack was a response to an offensive by the army and the Lebanese Shiite movement Hezbollah on Zabadani, the last rebel-held bastion along the Syrian-Lebanese border.
Clashes in Zabadani raged on Thursday, according to the Observatory, which has documented heavy shelling on the town since early July.
Elsewhere on Thursday, the Observatory said 17 government troops including a commander were killed in fighting with the Islamic State group near the city of Palmyra.
Among the dead was Major General Mohsen Makhlouf, of a tank battalion in area of central Homs province, the monitor said.
Palmyra, which is famed for its ancient ruins, has been under IS control since May, but in recent weeks government troops have advanced to within a few kilometres (miles) of the city.
In northeastern Syria, Kurdish forces backed by government shelling took an area south of the city of Hasakeh from IS forces, the Observatory said.
IS entered the city, where security control is divided between Kurdish and regime forces, on June 25, seizing territory in its southern districts.
But the Kurdish fighters, along with a group of Sunni Arab tribesman, are hoping to encircle the IS forces by taking a strip of territory outside the city.
At least 230,000 people have been killed in Syria's multi-front conflict, which began in 2011 with anti-government protests but devolved into a civil war.

Friday, July 17th 2015

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