Islamist rebels led by al-Qaeda's Syria branch, al-Nusra Front, seized a key village loyal to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and kidnapped dozens of people, a monitoring group reported Thursday.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said the rebels took control of al-Zara village on the southern outskirts of the central province of Hama following clashes with regime forces.

Al-Zara is located near a main road linking Hama and the central city of Homs. The village is mostly inhabited by Alawites, the sect to which al-Assad belongs.

Observatory head Rami Abdel-Rahman told dpa that the rebels had seized dozens of civilians and pro-regime militiamen whose fate was still unknown.

Regime warplanes have targeted al-Zara with at least 40 airstrikes since the rebels captured it, the watchdog said.

The rebels' attack on the village was reportedly codenamed "Revenge for Aleppo," a reference to the northern city that has been a key battleground between al-Assad's forces and opposition rebels in recent weeks.

The regime and rebels were Thursday reciprocating retaliatory attacks in Aleppo, hours after a temporary ceasefire ended in the city, activists said.

Regime warplanes bombarded the rebel-held districts of al-Zahara and al-Maysar shortly after the truce ended at midnight Wednesday, the Observatory said.

Rebels retaliated by firing at least three shells at dawn on Aleppo's regime-controlled neighbourhood of Seif al-Dawla, the watchdog added.

Mahmoud al-Shami, an activist based in the rebel-held side of Aleppo said that regime jets carried out air raids in the area following the end of the truce.

On Monday, the Syrian army said it had extended a 72-hour truce in Aleppo and its countryside for a further two days.

Retaliatory shelling and government airstrikes have claimed almost 300 civilian lives in Aleppo since April 22, according to the Britain-based Observatory that relies on a network of activists inside Syria.

Once Syria's commercial hub, Aleppo is now divided between the government-held west and the rebel-controlled east.

Several Syrian areas have been besieged by government forces and rebels during the conflict that started with peaceful pro-democracy protests in March 2011.

Meanwhile, humanitarian aid that was due Thursday to be delivered for the first time in nearly four years to Daraya, a Damascus suburb besieged by government forces, was turned back at the last government checkpoint, the UN and its parter organizations said.

"Daraya has been the site of relentless fighting for more than three and a half years, and we know the situation there is desperate," said Yacoub El Hillo, UN resident and humanitarian coordinator in Syria.

Stephane Dujarric, a spokesman for UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, said that the UN and its aid partners "decided to abort the mission" because food items meant for children had been removed at the checkpoint, calling the situation "extremely disappointing."

The convoy had been previously granted clearance to go into Daraya.

The convoy was supposed to provide essential medical supplies, including vaccinations; nutrition items for children; hygiene items and school kits.

According to Fadi, an activist based inside Daraya, people were angry because they needed "food to eat and not unecessary medical supplies."

He added shortly after the joint aid convoy was turned away, the regime shelled Daraya with mortars, killing a man and his son, who were waiting for the convoy to enter Daraya.  

Daraya is located some 8 kilometres south-west of the centre of Damascus.

Its pre-war population was estimated at nearly 79,000 people. The town's population at present ranges between 4,000 and 8,000, according to the UN estimates.   

Latest news

Syrian opposition rules out future role for President al-Assad

The Syrian opposition said Friday it would not accept any role for President Bashar al-Assad in the future of the war-torn country, reacting to a recent US shift saying that removing al-Assad is no longer a priority for Washington.

Russian Army integrates breakaway forces of Georgian province

Parts of the small fighting forces of the Georgian breakaway province of South Ossetia have been placed under Russian military control, Russian Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu said on Friday.

Czech Republic's Pilsner Urquell beer is now Japanese

Japanese brewing company Asahi completed its takeover of the Czech brewery Pilsner Urquell on Friday, Asahi said in a statement.

Judge approves 25-million-dollar settlement of Trump University case

A US district judge on Friday approved a 25-million-dollar settlement of lawsuits and state fraud allegations against Trump University, the US president's now-defunct business venture.

Former Thai premier Thaksin to junta on reconciliation: 'Cut me out'

Former Thai prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra on Friday announced that he is not interested in the junta-led reconciliation process, three days after the junta handed him a half-a-billion-dollar tax bill for his past business deal.

Dalic: We welcome possible deal between Agrokor and banks

The government welcomes the possibility of an agreement being concluded between the Agrokor food company and creditor banks, and the bill on vitally important companies is not a fallback plan but the result of the government's care for the overall economic and financial stability of Croatia, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Economy Martina Dalic told a press conference in Zagreb on Friday.

Croatia, China sign action plan for cooperation in agriculture

The Croatian and Chinese ministries of agriculture on Friday signed an action plan for cooperation in the field of agriculture for the period 2017-2018, the Croatian ministry said in a statement.

ZSE indices up, Agrokor shares in focus of investor interest

The Zagreb Stock Exchange (ZSE) indices on Friday rose by more than 1.8%, with stocks of the Agrokor food and retail concern being in the focus of investor interest again.

Berlin police defend handling of Berlin market attacker

Berlin police defended themselves on Friday against accusations that they stopped surveillance on Berlin Christmas market attacker despite knowing in June 2016 he was dangerous.

Croatia, creditors tailor emergency measures to save tottering giant

Croatia's tottering retail and food giant Agrokor reached an agreement with its creditors, putting its debts standby and allowing it to continue working during emergency restructuring, the Croatian branch of Austria's Erste Bank said Friday.

Agrokor's creditors say standstill agreement to go into force today

A standstill agreement regarding the Agrokor concern's existing financial obligations to banks will take effect on Friday, additional capital will be injected into the concern in the coming days and the concern will be actively restructured, which includes a change of its management, it was said on Friday after a meeting between Agrokor's suppliers and creditor banks.

Palestinians, UN slam Israel's new settlement plan

Palestinians, Israeli activists and the UN lambasted the government of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Friday, a day after it gave the go-ahead for the first new West Bank settlement in a quarter of a century.

South Sudan rebels release three abducted foreign oil workers

South Sudanese rebels have released three foreign engineers they abducted in early March in the oil-rich Upper Nile region, Foreign Affairs Ministry official Mawein Makol Arik said on Friday.

Turkish opposition: Imprisoned party chief has gone on hunger strike

The head of Turkey's pro-Kurdish opposition party has launched a hunger strike from prison.

European leagues threaten Champions League schedule clashes

The European Professional Football Leagues (EPFL) on Friday threatened schedule clashes on Champions League matchdays in an ongoing dispute with the governing body UEFA.

Danish court revokes citizenship of IS volunteer

A Danish appellate court on Friday stripped a man of his Danish citizenship for volunteering to fight for the extremist Islamic State in Syria.

Banks and Agrokor agree on key elements of standstill agreement

Member banks of the coordinating committee of financial creditors and representatives of the Agrokor food company have in principle agreed on key elements of a standstill agreement, which is expected to be signed later today, announcing changes in the company's management team, Erste Bank said in a statement on Friday afternoon.

Syrian man on trial in Sweden; mosque attack labelled terrorism

A Syrian man went on trial Friday in the southern Swedish city of Malmo, charged with terrorism and arson after an attack last year on a building used as an assembly hall by Shiite Muslims.