Jihadists fighting back
Jihadists battling rebels in northern Syria fought yesterday to recover lost turf nearly a week after a new front opened in the conflict gripping the country.
The fighting comes a day after the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant was expelled from Aleppo city by rebels fighting to topple President Bashar al-Assad.
Meanwhile, a massive car bomb blast in the central province of Hama killed at least 18 people, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.
Russia, on the other hand, on Wednesday blocked a British-drafted UN Security Council statement condemning the Syrian government attacks on the city of Aleppo, diplomats said.
It was the second time in a month that Russia objected to a western bid to slam President Bashar al-Assad's air assault against Syria's biggest city that has killed hundreds since December 15.
Aid groups say that Scud missiles and barrels packed with explosives and shrapnel have been dropped on schools, markets and hospitals in Aleppo, killing more than 700 people.
Russia is a key backer of Assad and has used its power as a permanent council member to veto three legally binding resolutions on Syria since the war started in March 2011.
The United States proposed a non-binding statement on Aleppo in December, but Russia blocked it with what Western diplomats called "wrecking amendments" that would have watered it down.
Germany, meanwhile, said yesterday it had accepted a UN request to destroy remnants of Syria's chemical weapons on its own soil as part of a bid to eliminate the arsenal by June 30.
The foreign and defence ministries said in a joint statement that the move was intended to speed up the scrapping of all of Syria's chemical weapons stocks and thus advance the peace process.
State-owned company GEKA based in the northern town of Munster will handle the mission "in full compliance with environmental regulations", the ministries added.
Yesterday's violence comes nearly a week after rebels launched an all-out attack on ISIL, and almost three years into a war that broke out after Assad's regime launched a brutal crackdown against dissent.
The fighting has not stopped the main conflict between opposition fighters and the regime.
At least 18 people, among them women and children, were killed in the huge car bombing in Kafat in central Hama province yesterday, the Observatory said.
Much of the province, including Kafat, is still under regime control, and state television reported the "terrorist" blast, saying 16 people were dead and tens more wounded.
The Observatory said "the number of casualties is likely to rise because several of the wounded are in critical condition", adding that the blast took place near a school.
Most of the victims were civilians, it added.
The majority of Syria's car bombings have been claimed by jihadists.