Istanbul/Beirut: Eleven Syrian soldiers were killed on Saturday in fighting and rebel attacks on checkpoints in Aleppo province, as shelling killed five members of the same family, monitors said.
The soldiers and five rebels were killed in fierce clashes in the Orm and Kaf Jum areas, near the border with Turkey, said the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. A woman also died in shelling as rebels attacked checkpoints in Abezmo.
“The state has no presence except for military and administrative posts” in the western region of the province in northern Syria, Observatory director Rami Abdul Rahman told AFP by telephone.
He said the regime was determined to prevent rebels linking up between western Aleppo and the neighboring province of Idlib as this would form an extensive insurgent region on the border with Turkey, which supports the revolt in Syria.
In shelling of several rebel-held district of Aleppo city, five members of the same family, including children, were killed in Maysar, said Abdul Rahman, whose Britain-based monitoring group relies on a network of activists on the ground.
The Old City of Aleppo, however, deserted of civilians but with a frontline running across it, was being spared air raids, an AFP correspondent in Syria’s commercial capital said.
In the central city of Homs, where rebels remain entrenched in many areas, at least one soldier was killed in clashes near the Old City, while a civilian also died in Juret Al Shiyah district, the Observatory said.
Outside the city, four soldiers were killed in an attack on their vehicle and a man was killed elsewhere in the province, it said, adding that three rebels were killed in clashes in the flashpoint town of Rastan.
Elsewhere in the country, security forces carried out arrests and raids in the town of Hara in the southern province of Daraa while fighting broke out in the village of Dael.
The Syrian Observatory gave an initial toll of at least 31 people killed nationwide on Saturday: 10 civilians, 12 soldiers and nine rebels. It reported a total of 142 people, including 88 civilians were killed in violence on Friday.
Meanwhile, the Turkish army has deployed artillery and anti-aircraft missiles near a Syria border post being disputed between Damascus regime forces and rebels in fierce clashes, media reported on Saturday.
A score of howitzer batteries and missiles were moved to the area as a precautionary measure amid continued fighting on Syrian soil for the control of the Tall Al Abyad border post, NTV news channel said.
The deployment comes after shelling by Syrian government forces wounded two Turkish citizens on Thursday in the southeastern border city of Sanliurfa, as they tried to win back the post from the rebels.
Meanwhile, Syrian rebels attacked a Lebanese army post near the border between the two countries, without causing casualties, Lebanon’s military said on Saturday.
On Friday night, “a large number of insurgents attacked a Lebanese army post in the Arsal region. This was the second time in less than a week that the Free Syrian Army has entered Lebanese territory,” an official communique said.
“Army reinforcements were dispatched to the area and began to pursue the gunmen, who fled after the attack towards the mountains and several border towns and villages” inside Lebanon.
“The army leadership will not allow any party to use Lebanese territory to implicate Lebanon in events in neighbouring countries, and reaffirms its determination to protect Lebanese territory,” it added.
The border between the two states, which spans across the north of Lebanon and down the whole length of the country on the east, is porous and not defined in several areas.
Sunni residents of the town of Arsal, 15km from the border, support the Syrian revolt and accuse Syria’s army of carrying out regular incursions and kidnapping refugees.
But pro-Damascus Lebanese groups, such as the powerful Shiite movement Hezbollah, accuse the Sunni village of facilitating the smuggling of weapons and fighters to rebels across the border.
And shelling from Syria into Lebanon and cross-border shootings have become regular occurrences.