12:00 AM, February 03, 2014 / LAST MODIFIED: 01:53 AM, March 08, 2015

Barrel bomb raids 'kill 85'

Barrel bomb raids 'kill 85'

Afp, Damascus

At least 85 people were killed in 24 hours of Syrian regime air raids on the city of Aleppo, a monitoring group said yesterday, after 10 days of inconclusive peace talks.
The deaths came as a suicide car bombing in a Hezbollah stronghold across the border in Lebanon killed four people on Saturday, in the latest regional spillover of the conflict.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said regime helicopters hit rebel-held areas of Aleppo with barrels packed with explosives.
The so-called barrel bombs are a controversial weapon, condemned by rights groups as indiscriminate.
"At least 85 people were killed, including 65 civilians, 10 of whom were children," on Saturday, the Observatory said.
The group said 34 people were killed in one neighbourhood alone, and 10 of the dead were jihadists from Al-Nusra Front, al-Qaeda's Syrian affiliate.
Once Syria's economic hub, Aleppo is now divided between regime and rebel-held areas, with large swathes of the city devastated by the fighting that began there in mid-2012.
Regime forces have launched an offensive on rebel-held areas in the east of the city, with Defence Minister General Fahd al-Freij visiting the province on Friday.
Quoted by state news agency SANA, he praised the army for its "great victories and their liberation of many areas in Aleppo."  The Observatory confirmed the army had seized most of Karam al-Turab, and said fierce fighting was underway around Zara.
The latest violence came the day after Syrian government and opposition delegations wrapped up peace talks in Geneva without tangible results or a government committment to return to the table.
More than 136,000 people have been killed since Syria's conflict began in March 2011.
Meanwhile, The US State Department has denied a claim by Syria's foreign minister Saturday that Washington sought direct negotiations with them at peace talks in Switzerland.
"The Americans asked us to negotiate directly with them in Montreux," Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Muallem told Syrian state media on the plane home from 10 days of peace talks in the Swiss cities of Montreux and Geneva.
"But we refused to do so before Secretary of State John Kerry apologised for what he said at the conference," Muallem added, in remarks carried by state news agency SANA.
State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki denied there was any attempt at direct negotiations.
Syria's government and opposition began the so-called Geneva II talks on January 22, with the participation of dozens of nations, including Russia, which backs the regime, and the United States, which supports the opposition.
During 10 days of talks the regime and opposition made no progress on ceasefires, humanitarian corridors or the question of a transitional government. A second round of talks has been tabled for February 10.


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