x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 26 July 2017

Syria clashes warm up ahead of UN peace monitors' arrival

Syrian forces reportedly killed five civilians in shelling of rebel areas and clashes with gunmen, testing a shaky UN-backed ceasefire as international monitors prepared to fly in.

DAMASCUS // Syrian forces reportedly killed five civilians in shelling of rebel areas and clashes with gunmen yesterday, testing a shaky UN-backed ceasefire as international monitors prepared to fly in.

Forces loyal to President Bashar Al Assad subjected the Khaldiyeh and Bayada neighbourhoods of the city of Homs to their fiercest bombardment since the truce came into force on Thursday, monitors said.

"The bombardment of Khaldiyeh intensified this morning with an average of three shells a minute," the head of the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, Rami Abdel Rahman, said.

He said one civilian was killed in Khaldiyeh, another was killed in shelling of the Jobar neighbourhood, and a third was shot dead by a sniper in Qsour.

With clashes warming up and both sides blaming each other for the violence, pro-regime militiamen also shot dead a civilian in the town of Aqrab, in the central province of Hama.

Security forces also shot dead a man in the Damascus suburb of Douma, the Observatory for Human Rights said.

"What ceasefire? There's an explosion every five to six minutes," said Yazan, a Homs-based activist, contacted by Skype.

Three civilians died in Homs shelling on Saturday, among 14 people reported killed nationwide.

Elsewhere, rebel fighters clashed with security forces in Al Bab in the northern province of Aleppo, the Observatory added.

Thirty-two people have been killed since the ceasefire brokered by the UN-Arab League envoy, Kofi Annan took effect, most of them civilians, the Observatory said.

* Agence France-Presse and the Associated Press