Assad regime pounds Syria rebels ahead of talks
ALEPPO - Government aircraft pounded rebels and their jihadist allies in northern Syria overnight, a monitor said Wednesday, as Moscow announced new peace talks to be held in Kazakhstan on January 23.
Air raids targeted the rebel strongholds of Atarib and Khan al-Assal in Aleppo province, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.
It had no immediate word on any casualties.
An AFP correspondent heard intense air strikes in the Atarib area.
The strikes came despite a shaky two-week ceasefire between the government and non-jihadist rebels that is meant to pave the way for peace talks which Moscow said on Wednesday would begin in the Kazakh capital Astana on January 23.
Government aircraft also carried out strikes on Wednesday in Idlib province in the northwest, targeting positions of former Al-Qaeda affiliate Fateh al-Sham Front, which is not party to the ceasefire, the Observatory said.
The strikes on the town of Taftanaz killed three rebels from an Islamist group allied to the jihadists, the Britain-based monitor said.
An AFP correspondent in the town saw a building that had totally collapsed in the attack. The White Helmets, a rescue service operating in rebel areas, spent hours clearing debris with picks and hammers.
Since the ceasefire went into effect on December 30, the regime's strikes on rebel strongholds have eased but have not stopped completely.
Fighting has continued in the Wadi Barada region, northwest of Damascus, which is the capital's main water source.
Millions of people have been without mains water for weeks after fighting damaged key infrastructure.
President Bashar al-Assad has claimed that Fateh al-Sham forces are present in the area, a charge rebels deny.
On Tuesday, the regime sent reinforcements to Wadi Barada, the Observatory said without providing further details.
"The role of the Syrian army is to liberate that area in order to prevent those terrorists from using that water in order to suffocate the capital," Assad told French media in an interview aired on Monday.