Assad's forces shell, barrel bomb rebels across Syria despite Geneva II peace talks

Published January 22nd, 2014 - 04:54 GMT
A Syrian man holds up a copy of the Quran, Islam's holy book, at the scene of a reported airstrike by government forces on the central al-Fardous neighbourhood of the northern Syrian city of Aleppo on January 21, 2014. (AFP)
A Syrian man holds up a copy of the Quran, Islam's holy book, at the scene of a reported airstrike by government forces on the central al-Fardous neighbourhood of the northern Syrian city of Aleppo on January 21, 2014. (AFP)

Syrian government troops shelled rebel positions and dropped barrel bombs on opposition strongholds on Wednesday as the Geneva II conference on Syria opened in Switzerland, a monitoring group said.  

President Bashar al-Assad's troops shelled rebel areas near the Saydnaya area north of Damascus, while vicious fighting in nearby Zabadani killed some 10 soldiers, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, Agence France Presse reported.

Meanwhile, regime helicopters dropped the highly destructive "barrel bombs" in the central Hama province, the Observatory reported.

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights uses a network of activists - including lawyers and doctors - on the ground in Syria to garner information on the conflict.

The Syrian regime's use of barrel bombs - named so due to their anatomy, which is made up of filling barrels with explosives - has been widely condemned by human rights groups as they fail to distinguish between rebel fighters and civilians, AFP reported.

In Syria's western city of Homs, where rebel-held areas have been held under a brutal siege for nearly 600 days, government troops shelled the Waar neighborhood, home to thousands of Homs residents forced to leave their homes in other parts of the city, the Observatory said.

Wednesday's wave of violence came despite the world's major powers - including two parties representing the opposition and government in Syria - sitting down in Switzerland in a bid to find a resolution to the nearly three-year-old conflict. 

"The situation on the ground has not changed at all despite the talks opening in Switzerland. All the main frontlines are still extremely violent, just like yesterday," said Observatory director Rami Abdel Rahman, according to AFP.

In Syria's north rebels faced infighting as battles were waged by opposition fighters against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), an Al Qaeda linked militant group accused of kidnapping, torturing and killing rival rebels and activists.

According to the Observatory, a young child was killed in the crossfire between ISIL and rebels in Idlib province.

Earlier in January, three leading rebel alliances comprised of moderate and Islamist opposition fighters began a major offensive against ISIL jihadists across Syria.

While rebel fighters battling Assad's forces initially supported the jihadists, the Al Qaeda group's "quest for hegemony and its horrific abuses against rebels and civilian activists have angered much of the rest of the opposition", AFP reported.

Syria's war, which began in March 2011, has killed more than 130,000 people and forced millions more to flee their homes and become displaced across Syria and the region.


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