ALEPPO - Syrian rebels killed at least 18 soldiers in a car bomb and ground attack on a military position in Idlib province on Wednesday, as fighting also raged in the country’s commercial capital, Aleppo.
Four Armenian Syrians were killed and 13 wounded on the road home from the airport after a trip to Yerevan.
“There were 70 to 100 soldiers there when the attack occurred” in the town of Saraqeb, Rami Abdul Rahman, head of the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, told AFP. “Twenty soldiers escaped, and clashes are still going on,” he added. Abdel Rahman said the details of the incident were still sketchy, and that he could not say whether the car bombing was a suicide attack.
Outside Aleppo, fighting erupted at dawn in the Nayrab area, around five kilometres (three miles) from the city’s airport, which remained fully operational, the Observatory said.
Over the past several weeks, rebels have taken to attacking military airfields in an attempt to prevent them from being used for launching air strikes, while commercial facilities have been left alone. However, this is not the first time there has been fighting around Aleppo airport, which serves the country’s commercial capital. A friend of the Syrian Armenians told AFP: “It’s not obvious who opened fire, but the result is that five cars were attacked and four Armenians were killed and 13 or 14 others were wounded.” “Some say it was the FSA (Free Syrian Army), but it’s not clear. We don’t have proof and we should wait and see. I don’t think the FSA would attack random cars in the street.” He said one of those killed “had left his family behind in Armenia, his wife and kids. He had gone back to take care of some things in Aleppo and then return.”
Meanwhile, the army shelled a string of neighbourhoods in central Aleppo, including Suleiman al-Halabi, Sheikh Khodr and Qadi Askar, the Britain-based Observatory said.
Helicopter gunships also strafed the rebel district of Bustan al-Basha, a witness said, and the Observatory reported that rebels used rocket-propelled grenades to attack a security branch in the adjacent Midan neighbourhood. Rebels had been trying for four days to enter Midan.
Elsewhere, a boy and a girl were killed and dozens of civilians wounded when the army shelled the rebel village of Latamneh in Hama province, said the Observatory, which gathers its information from a wide network of activists. Also in Hama, the Observatory reported that eight bodies had been found in farmlands in Halfaya village, following an assault by government forces. It said the number of dead was expected to rise as many people were reported missing. In eastern Syria, troops shelled several districts of Deir Ezzor city, and an unspecified number of people were killed in air strikes on the town of Albu Kamal, the Observatory said.
Rebels launched rocket attacks on a number of army checkpoints in the northwestern city of Idlib, the Observatory added, with locals reporting powerful explosions and columns of smoke rising from the targets. On Tuesday, 138 people — 93 civilians, 19 rebels and 26 soldiers — were killed nationwide, according to the Observatory. Of these, 13 people died in Aleppo, mostly civilians in Sakhur, Sukari and Bustan al-Qasr.