Masses flee as Syrian war claims 140 lives on Sunday, rights group says
Fierce fighting between Syrian rebels and regime forces has sparked an exodus of residents from the Sheikh Maqsud district of the northern city of Aleppo, a watchdog group says.
Violence also engulfed areas in and around Damascus on Sunday, where children were among eight civilians killed in shelling of Kafar Batna village, while a missile slammed into a Palestinian refugee camp in Damascus, causing more casualties.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights watchdog also reported that at least 140 people, including 56 civilians, were killed nationwide on Easter Sunday.
"The Sheikh Maqsud neighbourhood has seen a major exodus after shells hit the area, destroying several homes," said the head of the Britain-based Observatory, Rami Abdel Rahman.
"Hundreds of cars carrying families were seen leaving the neighbourhood."
Battles have been raging in the strategic, predominantly Kurdish neighbourhood since Friday, as regime troops try to prevent rebels from advancing into the district.
The battles had killed so far at least 43 people, including 15 civilians, 19 soldiers and pro-regime fighters as well as nine rebels, the Observatory said.
Sheikh Maqsud sits atop a hill, with vantage points over all Aleppo and its capture would be a key victory for the rebels, allowing them to target districts still in regime hands.
On Saturday, the Observatory and Syrian state media reported that rebels had killed a pro-regime Sunni cleric in the district.
On Sunday, SANA reported that "armed terrorists groups" had "set fire to three oil wells in the province of Deir Ezzor, after a dispute between them".