At least 48 people have been killed in Syrian government air bombardment around a town in the central province of Homs, a monitoring group says.
Two days of air strikes left women, children and men including rebels among the dead, according to the UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, which monitors developments in Syria through a network of sources.
Nearly a dozen fighters and multiple rebel commanders were also reported killed in the bombardment, which targeted Talbiseh, a town in the north of Homs and on the country’s main north-south highway.
The death toll from the bombardment, which took place on Tuesday and Wednesday, was expected to rise because dozens of people including children were in critical condition, the Observatory said.
The group said rebels in Talbiseh had shelled regime positions around the nearby rebel-held town of Umm Sharshuh as fighting raged around it.
The towns are among a number that the rebels still hold in Homs province.
In May, Syrian rebels had abandoned their last stronghold in the heart of Homs city, which had been a centre of the revolt against the regime of President Bashar al-Assad.
In other Syria-related developments, Faleh al-Fayad, Iraq’s national security adviser, briefed Assad on Tuesday on efforts to counter the Islamic State of Iraq and Levant (ISIL), Syrian state media reported, the first such meeting since the US launched air strikes on the group’s fighters in Iraq.
The US and other Western governments have dismissed the idea of cooperating with Syria in the fight against the ISIL, which has seized large areas of Iraq and Syria.
The meeting between Fayad and Assad indicated that the Iraqi government aims to maintain ties with the Syrian regime in contrast to Western governments’ stance.
The US is leading efforts to forge an international coalition against the ISIL, which emerged from the Syrian conflict and took control of large parts of Syria and Iraq.
More than 190,000 people have been killed in Syria’s conflict and millions more displaced, according to UN data.
The conflict began more than three years ago as a peaceful protest movement and turned into a civil war after a government crackdown.