Beirut: Syrian army shelling of a mosque in the central city of Homs killed a prominent cleric on Friday, while Islamist rebels in Aleppo to the north made a fresh advance, a monitoring group said.
“Two people were killed in shelling by regime troops of the Raees mosque in the Waar neighbourhood” of Homs city, said the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.
The group’s director Rami Abdul Rahman said one of those killed was Sufwan Mashraqa, a Sunni cleric who was leading Friday prayers in the mosque.
Mashraqa was a former head of the city’s department for religious affairs.
Amateur video distributed by activists showed the cleric giving a sermon. When the sound of shelling begins, scores of prayer-goers in the mosque are overtaken by panic.
Homs’s majority Sunni district of Waar is located near a small section of the city still under rebel control.
It has become home to tens of thousands of people who have fled other parts of the city. Waar sees daily fighting and shelling.
Elsewhere in Syria, Islamist rebels and jihadists battling to topple President Bashar Al Assad made a fresh advance in Aleppo, taking control of Kindi hospital in the north of the city, the Observatory said.
“We have confirmed reports that the Islamists and the [Al Qaida-affiliated] Al Nusra Front have taken near-total control of the Kindi hospital, and that they killed at least 20 regular troops there,” said Observatory director Rami Abdul Rahman.
The fighters have also taken dozens of regulars prisoner, he added.
The takeover, Abdul Rahman told AFP, came after “two Al Nusra Front fighters detonated themselves at checkpoints guarding the facility”.
Once a hospital, the facility was turned into a base for Al Assad loyalist troops several months ago.
Speaking to AFP via the Internet, Abu Omar said the latest advance “gives fighters in the north of the city easier access to the nearby countryside.”
Shahba Press, a network of citizen journalists in Aleppo, said the takeover “comes a year into a [rebel] siege” of the facility.
Activists meanwhile reported the death while covering the battle for the Kindi hospital of a photographer, Molhem Barakat, who was just 18 years old, according to Aleppo-based citizen journalist Mohammad Wissam.
The Aleppo Media Centre, a network of activists in the city, distributed a photograph of Barakat’s blood-stained camera.
In southern Syria’s Jassem, meanwhile, the number of people killed from a Thursday aerial attack using TNT-packed crude barrels has risen to 17, said the Observatory.
Among them were four children, it added.
Near Damascus, fresh fighting broke out in Maalula, an ancient Christian town located in the Qalamoun mountains.
The fighting pitted rebels and Al Qaida-linked jihadists against troops backed by paramilitary fighters.
More than 126,000 people have been killed in Syria’s war since March 2011, and millions more forced to flee their homes.