Middle East

Syria conflict: Family killed in air strike near Aleppo

Image published by pro-opposition Aleppo Media Centre purportedly showing aftermath of air strike in Babka, Aleppo province, on 12 January 2017 Image copyright AMC
Image caption Opposition activists published photos purportedly showing the aftermath of the Babka air strikes

At least nine people, including four children, have been killed in an air strike in a rebel-held village near the Syrian city of Aleppo, activists say.

All of the dead were reportedly members of a family whose house in Babka was hit early on Thursday.

A monitoring group also said at least 22 jihadists had been killed in air strikes in neighbouring Idlib province.

It was not clear who was behind the various attacks, which took place despite a week-old nationwide truce.

The truce covers government and rebel forces, but not members of so-called Islamic State (IS) or the rival jihadist group Jabhat Fateh al-Sham, which was known as al-Nusra Front until it broke off formal ties with al-Qaeda in July.

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The pro-opposition Local Co-ordination Committees and Aleppo Media Centre reported that warplanes carried out several air strikes on Babka.

The AMC said nine people were killed, while LCC put the death toll at 10.

Both added that dozens of other civilians were wounded and that rescue workers were searching through the rubble of destroyed buildings for survivors.

Meanwhile, in the rebel stronghold of Idlib province, 24 hours of air strikes had left at least 22 jihadist fighters dead, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported.

Image copyright AFP
Image caption Rebel-held Idlib province has been targeted in various air strikes during the truce

Some of the attacks were carried out by government aircraft, others by those of the US-led multinational coalition against IS, the UK-based monitoring group said.

One coalition strike on a convoy killed 16 members of Jabhat Fateh al-Sham, including two of the group's commanders, it added.

However, the coalition said it had not targeted the area on Tuesday or Wednesday.

Image copyright AFP
Image caption State media published pictures said to show men leaving Wadi Barada on Wednesday

The nationwide truce, brokered by Turkey and Russia, has largely held since taking effect on 30 December. However, clashes have continued in some areas.

One of them is Wadi Barada, a rebel-held valley in the mountains north-west of Damascus, where the LCC reported that six civilians had been killed by government bombardment on Thursday.

On Wednesday, the governor of Damascus Countryside province told state media a deal had been agreed for the army to enter the valley and repair infrastructure at the Ain al-Fijeh spring, which supplies 70% of the capital's water.

Alaa Ibrahim added that some local rebel fighters would also hand over their weapons, while those not originally from the valley would be evacuated.

Opposition sources denied there was any such agreement, but dozens of men were photographed by state media apparently queuing to leave the valley.

On Thursday, UN special envoy Staffan de Mistura said five rebel-held villages in Wadi Barada had agreed to a truce, but that two others had not.

Some 5.5 million people living in and around Damascus have been deprived of running water since 22 December because of damage to the spring.

Rebels and activists have blamed government bombardment. The government has said rebels polluted the spring with diesel fuel, forcing it to cut supplies.

In a separate development, the US treasury imposed sanctions on 18 senior Syrian officials in response to findings by the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons and UN that the government had used the toxic chemical chlorine as a weapon against its own citizens in three attacks.

The state department also blacklisted a subsidiary of the Syrian defence ministry, Organisation for Technological Industries, which it said was boosting the Syrian government's ballistic missile programme.

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