Syria steps up attacks on rebel-held areas

Renewed violence reported in Aleppo, Damascus, Homs and Idlib as state television reports death of one of its reporters.

Syrian troops have stepped up their attacks on rebel-held areas across the country, opposition activists have said, as state media reported the death of one of its reporters, blaming “terrorists”.

President Bashar al-Assad’s forces on Sunday reportedly shelled the districts of al-Shaar and Hananu in the east of the city of Aleppo, while clashes were reported in the northern city’s Salaheddin neighbourhood.

Earlier this week, rebels were forced to flee Salaheddin, one of their key strongholds in Aleppo, due to a major offensive by Assad’s forces. Activists said the rebels continued to attack government forces in the district.

Fighting for the control of Aleppo, Syria’s commercial hub, has been ongoing for three weeks now.

The Free Syrian Army, the country’s main armed opposition group, was also reported to be in control of the northwestern town of Kafranbel.

In the Damascus province, Syria’s state news agency on Sunday said one of its reporters Ali Abbas had been assassinated at his home in the Jdaidet Artouz area on Saturday night.

The report blamed an “armed terrorist group”, a term the regime uses for its armed opponents. No further details were released.

Elsewhere in the province, machine gun fire was heard on Sunday in the town of al-Tel, where 15 civilians were killed in shelling and clashes a day earlier as troops tried to regain control from rebels.

Among those killed in government shelling in al-Tel is Yusuf al-Bushi, a Syrian army defector and a citizen journalist who worked with several international news organisations.

Journalists have suffered a number of casualties in the 17-month-old uprising against Assad, and in recent months there have been several attacks on pro-regime media.

Unrest in capital

In Damascus, gunfire was reported in the Qadam neighbourhood, while security forces carried out raids and arrests in the Qabr Aatka district.

Syrian troops say they have purged rebels from the capital after intense, week-long battles last month. But rebels continue to stage hit-and-run attacks and are active in the suburbs around the city.

The latest reports of violence came as the Arab League said it had postponed a meeting of Arab foreign ministers scheduled for Sunday to discuss the Syria crisis and to select a replacement for Kofi Annan, the UN-Arab League envoy.

Ahmed Ben Helli, the deputy Arab League chief, said the ministers, who had been due to meet in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, would set a new date to gather.

He told the Reuters news agency that the meeting was delayed because of a minor operation undergone by Saudi Arabian Foreign Minister Prince Saud Al Faisal.

The Arab ministers meeting was to have been held before Muslim leaders meet in Saudi Arabia on Tuesday for an Organisation of Islamic Co-operation summit.

‘Summary executions’ in Homs

In Syria, government forces pursued a massive-scale incursion into the restive district of al-Shamas in the central city of Homs on Saturday, activists said.

The activists said that Assad loyalists had carried out summary executions in Shamas, a claim that could not be independently verified.

Rebel-held neighbourhoods in Homs have been under seige for more than two months, as shelling by government forces continues, while clashes with rebels at the edges rage.

On Sunday, activists in the southern province of Deraa posted what they said was live footage showing tanks stationed in the town of Tafas amid sounds of intermittent shelling in the background.

Activists there said they feared a “massacre” by regime loyalists.

In the northwestern province of Idlib, scores were reportedly killed on Saturday as clashes raged between government troops and rebel fighters in several towns.

They were among 148 people killed across Syria on Saturday – 85 civilians, 20 rebels and 43 soldiers, the UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.

Source: Al Jazeera, News Agencies