DAMASCUS, (AFP) — Syrian troops backed by helicopter gunships clashed with rebels near a barracks in Aleppo as battles broke out around a military airport elsewhere in the northern province on Friday, monitors said.
In Damascus, state news agency SANA said the army unearthed the bodies of 25 people shot execution-style in the Qadam district and blamed “armed terrorist groups,” the regime’s term for rebels.
In other developments, a masked gunman on a motorbike gunned down prominent Kurdish activist Mahmoud Wali on Thursday in northeastern Syria, fellow activists said.
And a tolerated opposition group said three of its members — Abdel Aziz Khayer, Iyas Ayash and Maher Tahhan — had gone missing on their way home from Damascus airport after a trip to China for talks on an end to the violence.
The National Coordination Committee for Democratic Change groups Arab nationalists, Kurds and socialists.
In the Arkoub district of Aleppo, fighting erupted overnight near the Hanano army barracks, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.
Several districts of the northern metropolis, including Sakhur in the northeast and Bustan al-Qasr in the centre, came under overnight attack, the Britain-based monitoring group said.
Elsewhere in the province, fighting broke out between troops and rebels near the Meng military airport, it said.
Military airfields have been a key rebel target because the regime is increasingly using air power to launch devastating strikes.
Northwest of the capital Damascus, the Observatory reported a massive explosion, believed to be a car bomb. Heavy gunfire was heard afterwards but there were no immediate reports of casualties.
In the central province of Homs, a civilian was killed in dawn shelling of Rastan, while the eastern city of Deir Ezzor and the town of Daal in the southern province of Daraa also came under bombardment.
In Damascus, SANA said, soldiers acting on a tip-off from local residents found a mass grave containing 25 bodies with their hands tied and eyes masked. They had been kidnapped and killed by rebels, it said.
Protesters took to the streets after the main weekly Muslim prayers, as on every Friday since the revolt broke out in March 2011, in Aleppo and the northwestern province of Idlib, activists said.
This week’s slogan for the protests was “the beloved of the Prophet in Syria are being massacred,” reflecting demonstrations in several Muslim states on Friday over a US-produced film mocking the Prophet Mohammed.
At least 11 people were killed in violence on Friday, the Observatory said, a day after as many as 225 died, including at least 30 in a petrol station blast in Raqa, in the north, blamed on a regime air raid.
According to the Observatory, at least 29,000 people have been killed in the 18-month revolt against President Bashar al-Assad.
In an interview with Egyptian newspaper Al-Ahram al-Arabi, Assad hit out at Saudi Arabia, Turkey and Qatar, accusing them of arming Syrian rebels but insisting they will not win.
He said Qatar “uses the power of money and revolves in the orbit of the West by providing weapons and money to terrorists to repeat the scenario of Libya,” where Moamer Kadhafi’s regime was toppled in a bloody revolt last year.
Ankara, meanwhile, was focused on its ambition of a “new Ottoman empire,” the president said.
Assad reiterated that “armed men” were “using terrorism against the Syrian state,” but that they “have no support among the people. Ultimately they will not emerge victorious.”
On the humanitarian front, Syria’s ally Russia flew in almost 80 tonnes of food aid, SANA reported.
Iraq, meanwhile, on Friday denied permission for a North Korean aircraft to cross its airspace on its way to Syria over suspicions it was carrying arms and advisers, an official in Baghdad said.