Regime shelling in northern Syria kills at least six as rebels re-enter historic Christian town
At least six people were killed when the Syrian government shelled a market town on the outskirts of Aleppo on Saturday, activists said.
The shelling occurred in Al Bab, near Aleppo, Syria's largest city, the Associated Press reported Saturday. According to Britain-based watchdog, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, at least six people were killed in the attack.
The Observatory, which relies on a network of activists on the ground in Syria, said that Saturday's casualty figures were expected to rise as government forces launched several air-based attacks on opposition-majority areas surrounding Aleppo.
Abu Raed, one of the Observatory's sources on the ground in northern Syria, was reported as saying that the air strikes against Al Bab were likely part of a larger scale attack on Aleppo, according to AP.
Also Saturday, the Observatory reported that opposition fighters had re-entered the historic Christian town of Maaloula north of Damascus as they battle government troops surrounding Syria's Qalamoun region, Agence France Presse said.
"Fierce clashes are under way between rebel fighters, including the Al Nusra Front, and regime troops in Maaloula , which the rebels have entered and are trying to gain control of," said Rami Abdel Rahman, director of the Observatory told AFP.
In September, regime troops quelled a rebel advance into the Christian town, but the fierce fighting and gunfire forced most residents of Maaloula to flee their homes.
The town, which lies north of Damascus, is considered a symbol of Christianity's ancient presence in Syria, according to AFP, who reported that 'its 5,000 residents are among the few in the world who speak Aramaic, the language of Jesus Christ.'
The renewed clashes in Maaloula come as Syrian government troops are battling to gain and maintain control of a series of strategic villages and towns along the Damascus-Homs highway, north of the capital and an important trade supply route.
According to AFP, the regime has recaptured the town of Qara and Deir Attiyeh and now its troops are fighting with rebel groups for control of Nabak. The Observatory reported on Saturday that the government had launched a series of airstrikes against the town.
Troops loyal to Syrian President Bashar Assad are trying to trap the opposition in the Qalmoun region, north of Damascus, and cut the rebel supply lines across the nearby border with Lebanon, AFP reported.