Last updated: 14 January, 2013

Syrian artillery pounds rebel zones near Damascus

Shelling targeting the town of Hazzeh east of Damascus killed at least nine people on Sunday, including a number of children, a watchdog said, as the Syrian regime pressed its offensive against rebels.

Warplanes also pounded rebel zones on the outskirts of Damascus and in the northern province of Aleppo, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights added, giving a death toll of 100 nationwide for Sunday, including 14 children.

“At least nine civilians, many of them children, were killed in shelling on the Hazzeh area of Eastern Ghuta,” it said, referring to the eastern suburbs of the capital.

Observatory director Rami Abdel Rahman told AFP that he was unable to immediately confirm how many children had been killed in the bombardment, but “at least two of the victims were aged under four.”

Amateur video posted on the Internet by Hazzeh-based activists showed a young man carrying the bloodied body of a young boy away.

The grisly footage, which could not be verified, also showed other victims lying in the mud. At least two of the bodies shown were those of children.

The Observatory says more than 3,500 children have been killed in Syria since a peaceful uprising that broke out in March 2011 turned into an armed rebellion after a crackdown by President Bashar al-Assad’s government.

Fighting also raged near the base of any army brigade tasked with protecting Aleppo airport.

Further north in Aazaz, near the Turkish border, 10 civilians were killed in an air strike, the Britain-based Observatory said.

The watchdog, which relies on a network of activists, doctors and lawyers inside Syria, also reported fierce clashes between rebels and the army in Daraya and in the Barzeh district of north Damascus.

In Jaramana, a suburb of the capital and home mostly to minority Druze and Christians, a man was killed by a shell, while fierce clashes broke out around a security building in nearby Mleha.

Violence around the capital has mounted since the army launched an offensive against rebels who moved into several neighbourhoods last July.

The United Nations says that more than 60,000 people have been killed since the uprising broke out.