Fighting between Syrian government forces and rebels has resumed in three key locations where a ceasefire had been in place.
Pro-regime forces, including Lebanon’s Hezbollah, had agreed on a truce in the rebel bastion of Zabadani near the border with Lebanon and the government-held mainly Shia villages of Fua and Kafraya in Syria’s northwest.
Shelling and clashes began early on Saturday after overnight talks to reach a broader deal, including rebel fighters leaving Zabadani and the evacuation of civilians from Fua and Kafraya, failed.
Fua and Kafraya, the last two government-held villages in Idlib province, have been surrounded by a rebel alliance including al-Qaeda’s affiliate the Nusra Front for months.
Activist footage posted online showed rebels firing so-called “elephant rockets” into Kafraya on Saturday.
The rockets, named after the distinctive noise they make when they are launched, are improvised weapons made by attaching rocket motors to much larger bombs – a process that increases their destructive power while greatly reducing their accuracy.
The same kind of rockets have been used by Syrian regime forces.
The resumed fighting marks the collapse of the second ceasefire for the three areas this month.
The rebels had also sought the release of prisoners held by the government.
More than 240,000 people have been killed since Syria’s conflict began in March 2011, and half of the country’s population has been displaced by the war.