Middle East

Violence prompts flight from Syrian city

Fighting between rebels and regime forces in Aleppo neighbourhood blamed for scores of deaths and a civilian exodus.

Last Modified: 01 Apr 2013 03:30
Email Article
Print Article
Share article
Send Feedback
Al Jazeera's Zeina Khodr reports from Aleppo on how citizen journalists are reporting from 'liberated areas'

Fierce fighting between Syrian rebels and regime forces has led to an exodus of residents from the Sheikh Maqsud district of the northern city of Aleppo, according to a watchdog group.

Violence also engulfed areas in and around Damascus on Sunday, where children were among eight civilians killed in shelling of Kafar Batna village, while a missile struck the Yarmouk Palestinian refugee camp in Damascus causing more casualties.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR) also reported that at least 140 people, including 56 civilians, were killed nationwide on Easter Sunday.

"The Sheikh Maqsud neighbourhood has seen a major exodus after shells hit the area, destroying several homes," the head of the Britain-based SOHR, Rami Abdel Rahman, told AFP news agency.

"Hundreds of cars carrying families were seen leaving the neighbourhood."

The reports of the deaths came as Pope Francis, speaking in front of some 250,000 people from around the world gathered in Vatican City for Easter Mass, prayed for "dear Syria, for its people torn by conflict and for the many refugees who await help and comfort.

"How much blood has been shed! And how much suffering must there still be before a political solution to the crisis will be found?" he asked.

Strategic position

Battles have been raging in Sheikh Maqsud, a strategic, predominantly Kurdish neighbourhood, since Friday, as regime troops try to prevent rebels from advancing into the district.

The battles have killed so far at least 43 people, including 15 civilians, 19 soldiers and pro-regime fighters as well as nine rebels, SOHR said.

Sheikh Maqsud sits atop a hill, with vantage points over all second city Aleppo and its capture would be a key victory for the rebels, allowing them to target districts still in regime hands.

Live Box 2013315154740646149

On Saturday, SOHR and Syrian state media reported that rebels had killed a pro-government Sunni Muslim religious leader in Sheikh Maqsud, dragging his body through the streets afterwards.

In other violence on Sunday, Syrian state news agency SANA reported that "armed terrorists groups" has "set fire to three oil wells in the province of Deir Az Zor, after a dispute between them on sharing stolen oil".

The agency also reported claims that rebels forces were responsible for a "massacre" late on Saturday of at least 10 people in the town of Tal Kalakh near the border with Lebanon, an accusation denied by opposition activists.

SANA said women and children were among those killed in a "new massacre" in the Burj neighbourhood of Tal Kalakh carried out by "terrorists" - the regime's word of reference for rebels.

SOHR, quoting activists, gave a toll of 11 dead, including eight women, and said they were "executed during a raid by regime forces in the Burj neighbourhood" of the town.

In Damascus province, a car bomb exploded at a rebel checkpoint, killing at least five rebel fighters, the group said.

In another development, Canada's top diplomat pledged a donation of $13m to Jordan to tackle pressing humanitarian and security needs brought on by the Syrian civil war.

John Baird, foreign affairs minister, praised Jordan's humanitarian assistance and medical care to the more than 470,000 displaced Syrians sheltering in the kingdom, calling it a "model for all".


Al Jazeera And Agencies
Email Article
Print Article
Share article
Send Feedback
Topics in this article
Featured on Al Jazeera
More than one-quarter of Gaza's population has been displaced, causing a humanitarian crisis.
Ministers and MPs caught on camera sleeping through important speeches have sparked criticism that they are not working.
Muslim charities claim discrimination after major UK banks began closing their accounts.
Italy struggles to deal with growing flood of migrants willing to risk their lives to reach the nearest European shores.
Report on child sex abuse in British Asian community highlights issues that may affect the entire nation.
Taliban makes quick gains in Afghanistan with little opposition from Afghan army as US withdrawal begins.
Analysts say China moving back toward 1950s-era public trials aimed at shaming and intimidation.
Record numbers of migrants have made harrowing sea journeys to Italy and Greece this year.
In Vietnam, 40 percent of all pregnancies are terminated each year, a rate that health officials are hoping to reduce.
join our mailing list