BEIRUT (AP) — Russian and Syrian warplanes pounded targets in central and northern Syria, killing at least four civilians Sunday as ground troops battled insurgents and seized new territory, activists and the government said.
The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights and activist news platform Syrian Revolution Talbiseh said warplanes believed to be Russian targeted mourners at a funeral in Homs province’s al-Ghanto village, killing four civilians. Homs-based activist Bebars al-Telawy said the civilians were burying a man who died from wounds sustained a day earlier when the planes struck.
Al-Ghanto, the town of Talbiseh and other areas north of the city of Homs were pounded with more than a dozen airstrikes Sunday, including government helicopters dropping barrel bombs in the village of Ter Maela, the activists said.
The state-news agency SANA reported army troops began a ground offensive in the area.
Meanwhile, the Observatory and monitoring group Local Coordination Committees said intense clashes were reported on the edges of Wadihi, a village the government firmly controlled Sunday, a day after entering it during an offensive in southern Aleppo. The area is controlled by mainstream rebels, some Islamist groups and al-Qaida’s affiliate in Syria.
Government ground forces, backed by allied militias, opened another front in eastern Aleppo, where the Islamic State group has a strong presence. Syria TV reported that government forces seized control of al-Jabriyeh village. Local Coordination Committees said government warplanes had bombed areas in eastern Aleppo near the Kweiras military air base, which the IS group has besieged for months.
Syrian troops had launched a separate offensive earlier this month in an attempt to break the siege.
Since Russian airstrikes began on Sept. 30, Syrian troops have been on the offensive on several fronts around the country, in an attempt to secure supply routes and regain control of strategic areas.
Also Sunday, the International Committee of the Red Cross said aid was delivered to four areas that were part of a limited U.N.-brokered cease fire agreement reached last month.
It is the first aid delivered to the four besieged areas that include two Shiite villages in the province of Idlib and two rebel-held areas near the border with Lebanon.
The U.N.-backed truce was reached in September to end months of fighting between Sunni insurgents and pro-government forces, including fighters from Lebanon’s militant Hezbollah group.
The deal included the reciprocal transfer of thousands, allowing Sunni insurgents and their families safe passage out of the central town of Zabadani in return for safe passage for Shiite civilians in the northern villages of Foua and Kfarya, in Idlib province. Some 10,000 Shiite civilians and wounded pro-government fighters from the two villages in rebel-controlled Idlib will be allowed to leave.
So far no transfer has taken place. It was not yet clear when and how the transfer would be arranged.
Late Sunday, Pawel Krzyiesk, spokesman for the International Committee of the Red Cross, said 33 trucks of aid and medical supplies were delivered, serving 40,000 people in all four areas. The ICRC was working in cooperation with the Syrian Arab Red Crescent.
“This operation shows that political agreements can be reached to ease the suffering of civilians,” Krzyiesk told The Associated Press from Zabadani, where he was part of the team delivering the supplies.
He said an estimated 4 million Syrians are living in besieged areas or hard-to-reach locations, and are in need of aid.
“Where ever you look (in Syria), you will find hard-to-reach people,” he said, listing off areas that are besieged by government forces or controlled by militants.