Syrian troops storm central village, kill 15
Russia could drop support for Syria if Assad cheats: KremlinAssociated Press . Beirut
The government troops backed by allied militiamen have stormed a predominantly Sunni village in central Syria killing at least 15 people, while opposition forces began an offensive near Aleppo to try to cut the army’s supply route to the northern city, activists said on Saturday.
The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said the attack on the village of Sheik Hadid occurred late Friday and that the dead included two women and a child. It said the rest were men but did not know if they included rebel fighters.
The Local Coordination Committees, another activist group, said 26 people were killed in Sheik Hadid, including some who were killed with knives. Rami Abdul-Rahman, who heads the Observatory, said at least two of the dead were stabbed to death.
The discrepancy in numbers could not be immediately reconciled.
The assault came shortly after rebels captured Jalma, another village close to Sheik Hadid in Hama province, killing five soldiers. The Observatory said fighting raged Saturday in Sheik Hadid and nearby areas.
The civil war, which has left more than 100,000 dead, has taken increasingly sectarian overtones. Most of the rebels trying to overthrow President Bashar Assad belong to the majority Sunni sect while his regime is dominated by members of his minority Alawite sect, an offshoot of Shiite Islam.
The Observatory also reported clashes between fighters of two hard-line rebel organizations, al-Qaeda’s Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant and the Nusra Front, against Kurdish gunmen in the northern province of Raqqa. The group says 17 hard-liners and three Kurdish gunmen have been killed in the fighting since Friday.
Clashes between Islamic militants and Kurdish gunmen over the past months in northern Syria have left hundreds dead.
Also in northern Syria, the Observatory said the rebels launched a wide offensive south of Aleppo, Syria’s largest city, in an attempt to cut supplies to government forces in the contested metropolis.
Meanwhile, Russia’s Interfax news agency is quoting a top Kremlin official as saying the government could drop its support for Bashar Assad if the Syrian president reneges on his commitments to give up chemical weapons.
Interfax on Saturday quoted Sergei Ivanov, President Vladimir Putin’s chief of staff, as saying Russia’s position ‘could change’ if it was ‘certain that Assad is cheating’ on giving up chemical weapons.
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