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43 killed at Syrian sheep market

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A Syrian government air strike on a sheep market in a northeastern village has killed 43 people, a monitoring group said Wednesday. The death toll from Tuesday’s attack on al-Khansaa, which is controlled by the Islamic State group, was likely to rise, the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.

Activists in the area told dpa that locals in the largely rural region frequented the village market because they feared arrest or forced recruitment while crossing checkpoints into Qamishli, the nearest city, controlled by Kurdish and regime forces. Regime forces have intensified their air strikes on rebel-held areas in the past 24 hours, said Observatory director Rami Abdel Rahman.

In the north-eastern provincial capital, al-Hassakeh, Abdel-Rahman said 12 fighters from the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) and five civilians had been killed since Monday in clashes with government forces and shelling on Kurdish neighbourhoods.

Kurdish forces, who have declared the region an autonomous zone, have co-existed with remaining government forces in al-Hassakeh and Qamishli, leading to frequent accusations from the Arab opposition that they are acting on behalf of the regime.

Meanwhile, a car bomb exploded in a regime-held district of Homs in central Syria, killing five people and wounding 30 others, according to state news agency SANA.

The Observatory said seven people were killed and more than 25 others wounded in the attack in the Akrama district, mainly inhabited by members of President Bashar al-Assad’s Alawite sect. A bombing last October outside an Akrama school killed 48 pupils and four adults.

Homs lies on the strategic junction between Syria’s main north-south highway and the route to government strongholds on the coast. Apart from the rebel-held al-Wair district on the outskirts, government forces have regained control of the entire city, an early stronghold of the 2011 uprising against al-Assad. SAPA

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