Battles between Syrian rebels, jihadists kill at least 1069
BEIRUT - Two weeks of battles between Syrian rebels and jihadists have killed at least 1,069 people, mostly fighters, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said Thursday.
Among the dead, not all of whom were identified, were 608 Islamist and moderate rebels, 312 jihadists from the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) and 130 civilians, the Britain-based group said.
The battles broke out when rebels launched an offensive mainly in northern Syria against their erstwhile jihadist allies, whose quest for hegemony and systematic abuses have raised the wrath of those fighting to oust President Bashar al-Assad.
Among the 130 civilians dead were 21 summarily executed by ISIL in a children's hospital in Aleppo that the jihadists had turned into a base, the Observatory said.
Others died after being caught in the crossfire or in ISIL car bomb attacks.
Among the rebels killed were 99 summarily executed by ISIL.
The rebels also executed 56 ISIL prisoners, said the Observatory, which relies on a broad network of activists and doctors in Syria for its reporting.
Another 19 people were reported killed in the fighting that has stretched from Aleppo to Idlib, Raqa, Deir Ezzor and Hama provinces in the past fortnight, though the Observatory could not confirm their identities.
Clashes continued to rage Thursday, especially in Saraqeb, the jihadists' last bastion in the northwestern province of Idlib, said the Observatory.
In Aleppo province, meanwhile, a new ISIL car bomb hit a rebel checkpoint, it added.
The jihadists warned early in January that if the offensive against them continued, they would respond with suicide and car bomb attacks.
Meanwhile, the air force dropped powerful barrel bombs on rebel positions in and around Damascus, including Yarmuk refugee camp, Zabadani and Daraya, the Observatory said.
In besieged Yarmuk, four people were killed by the bombing. Another two died as a result of malnutrition, bringing the total deaths related to food and medicine shortages to more than 50 in recent months.
"A kilo of rice costs $100 (74 euros) here. No one has rice. A single cigarette costs $40. Some people are eating the weeds that even animals won't eat. Others are slaughtering cats and dogs," said Ibaa al-Arabi, a camp resident.
A seventh person from Yarmuk died while demonstrating on the edges of the camp, when troops at a checkpoint opened fire, said the Observatory.
Nearby Daraya -- also under siege -- was also pounded, though rebels shot down a helicopter, the group said.
In the central city of Homs, the number of people killed in shelling on Tuesday of the Ghouta neighbourhood rose to 19, including three children, the Observatory said.
The Syrian conflict, which erupted after Assad unleashed a brutal crackdown on democracy protests in March 2011, has killed more than 130,000 people and forced millions to flee their homes.