An explosion in a village in northwestern Syria near the border with Turkey killed at least 29 people including several Turkey-backed opposition fighters, Syrian activists said.
The attack, which was quickly claimed by the Islamic State group, underscored the complex layers of the Syrian conflict, where a civil war between Syrian president Bashar Assad’s forces and the rebels trying to oust him is taking place alongside a militant insurgency and an international war against IS.
Meanwhile, activists in the northern Syrian city of Aleppo said it was calmer yesterday after Syria’s military command announced the night before that it would scale back bombardment of the contested city to allow civilians to leave besieged rebel-held neighbourhoods.
“There were shellings and air raids, but it was less than in previous days,” said activist Bahaa al-Halaby, who was speaking from Aleppo province near the city.
The UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said that although airstrikes have almost stopped on the besieged eastern rebel-held neighbourhoods of the city, government forces were pushing ahead in their ground offensive.
The Observatory and state media said government forces advanced in Aleppo’s northern neighbourhood of Bustan al-Basha where troops captured a sports complex and a nearby housing compound.
Meanwhile, Mr Assad denied reports that his government is targeting hospitals and civilian infrastructure.
Syrian opposition activists and international relief agencies have said Syrian and Russian warplanes have been hitting hospitals and infrastructure in Aleppo.
Mr Assad told Denmark’s TV2 station that “to say that this is our aim as a government, (that) we give the orders to destroy hospitals or schools or to kill civilians, this is against our interest.”
Still, President Assad said mistakes are sometimes committed by individuals in any war.
In the explosion in the village of Atmeh at the Turkish border, activists said the blast occurred as opposition fighters gathered near a small restaurant in the area. It also apparently happened during an exchange of forces going to Syria and some planning to return to Turkey.
The blast was caused by a suicide bomber wearing an explosive belt.