Channel NewsAsia

Fighting rages in Syria as peace talks open

Syrian troops shelled rebel positions and dropped barrel bombs on opposition-held areas on Wednesday as an international peace conference opened in Switzerland, a monitoring group said.

BEIRUT: Syrian troops shelled rebel positions and dropped barrel bombs on opposition-held areas on Wednesday as an international peace conference opened in Switzerland, a monitoring group said.

President Bashar al-Assad's forces shelled rebel positions near the Saydnaya area north of Damascus, while fighting in Zabadani nearby killed at least 10 soldiers, including three officers, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

Regime helicopters meanwhile dropped highly destructive so-called barrel bombs in the central Hama province, said the Observatory, a Britain-based group that relies on a network of activists and other witnesses inside the country.

The dropping of explosives-filled barrels on residential areas has been widely condemned by rights groups because such weapons fail to distinguish between fighters and civilians.

In Homs, where rebel-held areas have been under siege for nearly 600 days, troops shelled the contested Waar neighbourhood, home to thousands of people who have fled their homes in other parts of the city.

"The situation on the ground has not changed at all despite the talks opening in Switzerland. All the main frontlines are still extremely violent, just like yesterday," said Observatory director Rami Abdel Rahman.

In northern Syria, rebels battled on the war's newest front against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, an Al-Qaeda linked jihadist group accused of kidnapping, torturing and killing rival rebels and activists.

A child was killed as rebels and ISIL exchanged fire in Darkush, in the northern Idlib province.

Earlier this month, three major rebel alliances of moderate and Islamist opposition fighters launched a major offensive against ISIL in several parts of Syria.

While rebels fighting Assad's troops initially welcomed the jihadists, ISIL's quest for hegemony and its horrific abuses against rebels and civilian activists have angered much of the rest of the opposition.

Syria’s war has killed more than 130,000 people and forced millions to flee their homes.

Tweet Photos, Videos and Update on this Story to  #cna