Beirut, Asharq Al-Awsat—The Syrian military stepped up its airstrikes on Aleppo and Damascus on Friday as peace talks between Syrian government and opposition in Switzerland entered their third day.
At least seven people were killed and dozens were injured after government warplanes and combat helicopters shelled Aleppo, Syria’s largest province, with rockets and barrel bombs, activists who spoke to Asharq Al-Awsat on the condition of anonymity said.
The shelling targeted several Aleppo districts, including Myassar, Jazmati, Shaar and Karm Homed.
Meanwhile, in Aleppo city clashes erupted between government forces and armed opposition factions that said they had pushed back against an attempt by troops loyal to President Bashar Al-Assad to enter the southern district of Marjeh under air cover.
In the southern Rif Dimashq governorate, the government-imposed siege on the Yarmouk camp, home to Syria’s largest Palestinian population, entered its 200th day. At least 63 civilians living in the camp have died from a lack of food, medicine and clean water due to the siege, the UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.
The Observatory urged the UN and the international community to “urgently move in order to lift the siege imposed by the Syrian government and loyalist Palestinian militias.”
The humanitarian situation in the Eastern Ghouta, another Rif Dimashq district near the capital, Damascus, also remains dire. Government forces have also imposed a blockade on the area, causing food and medicine shortages.
Speaking to Asharq Al-Awsat on the condition of anonymity, anti-government activists said the government had launched an airstrike on the town of Mleiha in Rif Dimashq as clashes with rebels erupted around the town’s Air Defense Administration headquarters.
In the northeastern Raqqa governorate, Al-Qaeda-linked fighters were reported to have beheaded two young men with a sword for cursing the Prophet.
The incident came 10 days after the governorate fell under the control of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, an Al-Qaeda-linked group that has been widely criticized for human rights abuses.
The group is now facing mounting pressure from more moderate rebel groups aiming to purge Syria of hardline Islamists.