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Syrian airstrike kills at least 15 in Aleppo

BEIRUT -- A Syrian government airstrike on a heavily contested neighborhood in the northern city of Aleppo yesterday killed at least 15 people, including nine children, activists said.

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said the air raid hit Aleppo's Sheikh Maqsoud neighborhood, which rebels seized parts of last weekend after days of heavy fighting with regime troops. That gain had been the latest opposition advance in an urban war zone that expanded last summer. Aleppo is Syria's largest city and a key front in the civil war raging between President Bashar Assad and those trying to overthrow his regime.

An amateur video of the raid showed people loading the bodies of three bloodied children and two men in the back of a pickup truck as women screamed and explosions went off in the distance. Another boy was seeing lying dead in the street near a burning truck.

Both sides are eager to control the strategic district, which is predominantly inhabited by minority Kurds. The neighborhood is on a hill that overlooks much of the city, giving those who control it the ability to pound districts held by the opposing side with mortars and artillery.

Meanwhile in Damascus, mortar rounds hit the residential district of Kafar Souseh on the city's western outskirts, killing one person and wounding at least 13, the state-run SANA news agency said. The attacks also damaged stores in the district and set several parked vehicles on fire, SANA said.

It was not immediately clear who fired the shells, but mortar rounds have fallen with increasingly regularity in the center of the capital, puncturing the aura of normalcy that the regime has tried to cultivate in the city. The regime has largely kept the rebels at bay so far in Damascus, although opposition fighters control several suburbs of the capital and look increasingly capable of threatening the heart of the city -- and Assad's power.

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