x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 22 January 2018

Twenty killed in second day of air raids on Syria’s Al Bab

Wave of regime airstrikes on a northern Syrian town kills 50 people in two days, Syrian Observatory for Human Rights says.

BEIRUT // A wave of regime airstrikes on a northern Syrian town has killed 50 people in two days, a monitoring group said.

On the political front, Syria’s deputy foreign minister insisted that no solution to Syria’s conflict proposed at a January 22 peace conference in Geneva would be implemented without President Bashar Al Assad’s approval.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said helicopters dropped explosive-laden barrels on the rebel-held town of Al Bab in northern Aleppo province for a second day yesterday, killing at least 24 people, including two women and four children.

The attack on a market area of Al Bab came a day after similar aerial bombardments on the town killed at least 26 others.

The state news agency Sana, reporting on the conflict in the town, said “Syrian army units destroyed the headquarters of an Islamic tribunal in Al Bab in a special operation”, without giving further details.

Elsewhere, the observatory said at least five regime fighters were killed overnight in a suicide car bombing at a police checkpoint on the Damascus-Homs highway near the contested town of Nabuk.

The group said tha attack was carried out by Al Nusra Front, an Al-Qaeda-linked rebel group.

Regime forces are trying to gain control of Nabuk as part of an operation to recapture the Qalamoun region. The army has already captured the towns of Qara and Deir Attiyeh, and a Syrian security source said troops now controlled 60 per cent of Nabuk, which lies farther south towards the capital on the Damascus-Homs highway.

The observatory said regime warplanes carried out airstrikes on the town yesterday, and fierce fighting continued there between rebel fighters, including Islamists, and army troops backed by a pro-regime militia and Lebanon’s Shiite Hizbollah.

The Syrian regime is trying to sever rebel supply routes that run through the mountainous Qalamoun region, north of Damascus, across the nearby border with Lebanon.

The fighting has spread to nearby Maalula, a Christian town, that was attacked by rebel fighters in September.

Regime troops had succeeded in recapturing the centre of the town, but rebels renewed their attacks there over the weekend “in an attempt to lessen the pressure on the terrorists encircled in Nabuk”, a Syrian security source said.

In Eastern Ghouta east of Damascus, fighting between rebels and troops raged on, days after opposition fighters including Islamists launched a bid to break a year-long siege there.

Five rebel fighters were killed in battles there yesterday, the observatory said.

* Agence France-Presse