A Syrian government airstrike on a heavily contested neighbourhood in the northern city of Aleppo has killed at least 15 people, including nine children, activists have said.
The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said the air raid hit Aleppo’s Sheikh Maqsoud neighbourhood, which rebels seized parts of last weekend after days of heavy fighting with regime troops.
Aleppo is Syria’s largest city and a key front in the civil war raging between President Bashar al-Assad and those trying to overthrow his regime.
An amateur video of the raid showed people loading the bodies of three bloodied children and two men in the back of a pickup truck as women screamed and explosions went off in the distance.
Another boy was seen lying dead in the street near a burning truck.
Both sides want control of the strategic district, which is predominantly inhabited by minority Kurds.
The rebels now control large swaths of northern Syria, and captured their first provincial capital – the city of Raqqa – last month.
They have also been making gains in recent weeks in the south, seizing military bases and towns in the strategically important region between Damascus and the border with Jordan, about 160km from the capital.
Meanwhile, in Damascus, mortar rounds hit the residential district of Kafr Souseh on the city’s western outskirts, killing one person and wounding at least 13, the state-run SANA news agency said.
It was not immediately clear who fired the shells.
Turkey on Saturday sharply refuted statements by Assad who said in an interview on Friday that Turkey was knowingly sheltering and supplying rebels with the help of Israel.
“Bashar al-Assad is living in his own world of imagination,” Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu said.
“Arguments that Turkey and Israel would co-operate against Syria are totally groundless; Turkey would never discuss matters relating to a neighbouring country with a third party like Israel.
“Turkey shares its destiny with its neighbours – these are only Assad’s efforts to hide his massacres, we do not take them seriously.”
“My position is that I am on the side of the Syrian people; I support the freedom and the sovereignty of the people.“
– Tammam Salam, Lebanon’s premier-designate
Lebanon’s prime minister-designate Tammam Salam told AFP news agency on Saturday that he supported the freedom of the Syrian people while insisting his country should remain neutral in its neighbour’s civil war.
“My position is that I am on the side of the Syrian people; I support the freedom and the sovereignty of the people,” Salam said, hours after being named by President Michel Sleiman to form a new government.
Also on Saturday, the newly-elected prime minister of the Western-backed opposition umbrella group in Syria, Ghassan Hitto, started reviewing candidates for a planned rebel interim government that will consist of 11 ministries and be based inside Syria, according to a statement by the Syrian National Coalition.
The candidates for ministerial and deputy positions must be Syrian citizens older than 35 years old, the statement said.
It added that high-ranking regime officials or “those who have committed crimes against the Syrian people or have unlawfully seized Syrian property or wealth” will be excluded from consideration.
The Western-backed opposition alliance has been marred by severe divisions in its ranks since its formation late last year in Qatar, and its leaders are mostly seen as disconnected from the myriad rebel forces fighting inside Syria.
In all, more than 70,000 people have been killed in Syria since March 2011, the UN says.