aleppo airstrike, syria.jpg
Photograph: EPA/ZOUHIR AL SHIMALE

At least 40 civilians were killed on Sunday in tit-for-tat attacks by Syrian regime forces and rebels in the northern city of Aleppo, a monitoring group reported.

The dead included 32 people who were killed in regime airstrikes and shelling targeting opposition-held districts in Aleppo, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights added.

Eight others were killed in shelling attacks by rebels on regime-controlled areas in the city.

A total of 519 civilians, including 108 children have been killed in retaliatory attacks by the regime and rebels since April 22, said the Britain-based watchdog that relies on a network of activists inside Syria for information.

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

The Observatory also reported that Kurdish-led Syrian forces were Sunday closing in on the city of Minbij, the centre of the Islamic State extremist group's last stretch of territory along the Turkish border.

The Kurdish-led Democratic Forces of Syria (DFS) were reportedly within 5 kilometres of the city's southern outskirts after six days of fighting.

Minbij is strategically important as it controls a supply route from the Turkish border to Syria’s north-eastern city of al-Raqqa, Islamic State’s de facto capital.

The Hawar news agency, which is close to Kurdish forces in the DFS, reported that the commander of one of the alliance's units, the Northern Sun Brigades, died Sunday from injuries sustained during fighting east of Minbij two days earlier.

The commander, known by his nom de guerre Abu Layla, was the most senior DFS leader to have been killed in fighting with Islamic State since the alliance was formed in October, according to the Observatory.

The monitoring group said Abu Layla had also been involved in the defence of the border town of Kobane from Islamic State in 2014-2015 - a lengthy battle that drew worldwide attention to the Kurdish forces' resistance against the jihadists and ended up winning them US air support.

The DFS have also freed six women and 15 children from Iraq's Yezidi minority who were being held as slaves by Islamic State jihadists in the village of Khirbet al-Rus on the southern edge of Minbij, the observatory said.

The jihadist organization enslaved or killed thousands of Yezidis after capturing the Sinjar region of Iraq, one of the religious minority's main homes, in June 2014.

Islamic State views the Yezidis, whose ancient religion is linked to Zoroastrianism, as infidels.

Yezidi men who were captured were reportedly killed or required to convert to Islam, while the group boasted of distributing Yezidi women and girls as concubines to its fighters.

Sinjar was recaptured by Kurdish forces in November last year. Several mass graves, thought to hold the remains of slain Yezidi civilians, have been found there since.

Latest news

Austria seeks to create jobs, but new EU immigrants need not apply

Austria plans to create 160,000 jobs in the next three years by subsidizing companies, but the project has raised concerns because it effectively excludes people who recently immigrated from other EU countries.

Juncker: Not good for W. Balkans that some in Washington want to water down EU

European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker said on Tuesday it was not good for Western Balkan countries that some people in the new US administration gave the impression of being against the European Union because those countries needed the prospects of EU membership.

German state approves full-face veil ban

Legislation that bans face veils in select public spaces and situations was agreed by the government of the southeastern German state of Bavaria on Tuesday.

Indian restaurant Gaggan in Bangkok named Asia's best for third year

Bangkok's Indian eatery Gaggan on Tuesday was named the best restaurant in Asia for the third consecutive year by Asia's 50 Best Restaurants.

HGK: 16 Croatian companies to exhibit at IDEX defence exhibition

Sixteen Croatian companies will exhibit their products at the 13th IDEX 2017 defence exhibition in Abu Dhabi, to be held on February 19-23.

Trump and the nuclear codes: Carnival again takes aim at politicians

US President Donald Trump, Brexit, Turkish leader Recep Tayyip Erdogan, and Germany's right-wing AfD party: Floats unveiled Tuesday for this year's Carnival parades in Cologne and Mainz once again turn to political satire to entertain revellers.

Barcelona police open fire on stolen lorry laden with gas canisters

Security forces in Barcelona opened fire on a stolen lorry laden with gas canisters to bring a rampage through the city to an end, police in the Spanish city said on Tuesday.

Stuttgart to issue bans on high-polluting diesel vehicles from 2018

Most diesel vehicles will be banned from roads in the southern German city of Stuttgart during times of heavy pollution, a bid to clean up the city's air, the German state of Baden-Wuerttemberg decided Tuesday.

Slovenia welcomes construction of LNG terminal off Krk, but won't join for now

Slovenia is not planning for now to connect to the floating LNG terminal to be built off Omisalj on the northern Croatian Adriatic island of Krk, but welcomes any additional energy source, Slovenian media say.

German court rules against automatic refugee status for Syrians

Syrians fleeing the multi-sided civil war in their home country do not have an automatic right to refugee status under the Geneva Convention, a German court ruled Tuesday.

Business conference pushes for intensified privatisation in Croatia

As long as the state authorities pay high bills, this means that the government has not yet seriously delved into the privatisation of state-run companies, although their sale can alleviate the pressure on the state budget, a business conference in Zagreb heard on Tuesday.

HND condemns judge's verbal tirade against reporters

The Croatian Journalists' Association (HND) on Tuesday condemned a verbal tirade by Sibenik Municipal Court Judge Maja Supe against reporters in the courtroom, claiming that they were not educated to report on trials and that they had called her the "most corrupt judge in the country."

Mosque attended by Berlin attacker Amri closed, police confirm

The mosque in Berlin attended by Berlin truck attacker Anis Amri has been closed. The mosque is permanently closed, read a note in German and Turkish on the door of the prayer rooms which was seen on Tuesday.

German army to expand to almost 200,000 soldiers

Germany's Bundeswehr, plans to expand its number of professional soldier to 198,000 by 2024 because of increasing duties, the German Defence Ministry announced on Tuesday.

Fired Audi engineer says he was 'sacrificed' for emissions scandal

A fired Audi engineer was "sacrificed" amid the ongoing VW group diesel emissions scandal, his lawyer claimed in court on Tuesday as he contested his client's dismissal.