SYRIA ALEPPO UNREST.jpg
A handout photograph released by the official Syrian Arab News Agency (SANA) shows people inspecting a residential neighborhood after rocket shells attack, in the government-held area of Aleppo, Syria, 11 July 2016.
Photograph: EPA/SANA HANDOUT

Nineteen Syrian government soldiers and security officers were killed on Monday when rebels detonated explosives in a tunnel under their positions in the northern city of Aleppo, a monitoring group said.

Rebels also launched some 300 shells on the divided city's government-held western sector, killing at least five people and wounding 80 others, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.

Rebels in Aleppo and nearby areas have repeatedly destroyed government positions by tunnelling underneath them to lay explosives. Some such attacks have caused dozens of casualties.

The violence comes after government forces all but surrounded rebel-held eastern Aleppo on Thursday, effectively imposing a siege on the estimated 250,000 to 300,000 residents remaining there.

Some 33 people were killed in government airstrikes in the Aleppo region and neighbouring Idlib province, the Observatory said.

In the village of Abian, west of Aleppo, 11 children were among 16 people killed in a government air raid late Saturday.

In Tramaneen village in Idlib province 14 people were killed in an airstrike, among them three rescue volunteers and an activist, the Observatory said. Three more were killed in the Idlib village of Ahsem.

Aleppo, Syria's largest city before the war, has been divided since fighting erupted for control of the city in mid 2012.

The rebel-held western sector has been devastated by repeated shelling and air raids, often hitting civilian targets including hospitals.

On Thursday government forces cut off the Castello Road, the last route into the rebel-held east. There has been heavy fighting in the area since then as rebels attempt to recapture the road.

Syrian state media said that their troops managed to foil a wide-scale rebel counter-attack on Sunday.

According to the Observatory, almost 800 civilians have been killed since tit-for-tat shelling and airstrikes by rebels and government forces intensified in late April.

Of those, 444 were killed in government airstrikes and shelling on eastern Aleppo, and 325 in rebel shelling of the government-held western sector.

Another 23 died in rebel shelling on the Kurdish-held Sheikh Maqsoud district, while six were killed by Kurdish snipers on or around the Castello Road, which passes close to Sheikh Maqsoud.

The Syrian conflict, which began with peaceful protests against the regime of President Bashar al-Assad, has turned into a four-way war between the government, mainly Islamist rebels, the Islamic State extremist group and leftist Kurdish forces.

Some 4.8 million Syrians have fled the country since 2011, with another 6.6 million displaced inside its borders, according to the latest UN estimates.

Latest news

Serbia's EU negotiator says minority rights neglected

The head of the Serbia's European Union accession negotiation team, Tanja Miscevic, said in Novi Sad on Wednesday that minority rights had been neglected for many years and added that positive results in that regard cannot be achieved over night, the Beta news agency has reported. 

Scientists: Nearby star's 7 rocky planets are "best bet" for life

New analysis of telescope data shows a dwarf star just 40 light years from Earth has at least seven apparently rocky planets with potential to harbour water, an international team of scientists announced Wednesday.

Croatian PM receives EIB Vice-President

Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic met on Wednesday with European Investment Bank (EIB) Vice-President Dario Scannapieco for talks on the bank's contribution to a new investment cycle in Croatia and its support to the Croatian government to implement key projects, a press release from the government's office said.

Bomb explodes outside police officer's home in Northern Ireland

A bomb exploded outside a police officer's home in Northern Ireland on Wednesday but there were no immediate reports of casualties.

Denmark to charge man with blasphemy over burning Koran

Danish prosecutors said Wednesday they have opened a rare blasphemy case against a man who videotaped himself burning a copy of the Koran.

South Africa to raise taxes for the wealthiest

South Africa will raise the income tax rate for the country's wealthiest to 45 per cent from 41 per cent, Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan announced Wednesday.

Reformist Macron wins support of key centrist leader for French vote

France's reformist presidential hopeful, Emmanuel Macron, got a boost on Wednesday when he picked up the support of a party leader whose centrist constituency played a pivotal role in the last two presidential elections.

Amnesty International warns of nationalist rhetoric and hate speech in Croatia

Croatia continues to have problems with discrimination against ethnic minorities and with freedom of the media, while heightened nationalist rhetoric and hate speech during election time contributed to growing ethnic intolerance and insecurity in the country, global human rights watchdog Amnesty International said in its annual report on the state of human rights in the world in 2016/2017.

Official assigned to Wilders' security team held by Dutch police

A security official assigned to protect Dutch far-right politician Geert Wilders is being held by police on suspicion of passing along classified information about the lawmaker to a Dutch-Moroccan crime gang.

100th anniversary of rescuing starving children marked

A special ceremony was held in Zagreb's Croatian National Theatre on Wednesday to mark the 100th anniversary of one of the greatest humanitarian undertakings in the history of the Croatian people which saved children in Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina from famine in the last two years of World War I.

Italy's 'Red Thing' could make impact in election debut, polls show

Two polls conducted for RAI public broadcaster released Wednesday showed a new entity that split from Italy's ruling Democratic Party

Council: Nixing grants to "Novosti" would cause far-reaching implications

The Council for National Minorities, a state-level autonomous umbrella organisation for all ethnic minorities in Croatia, has stated that the cancellation of financial grants to the "Novosti", a newspaper of the ethnic Serb minority, would produce far-reaching implications and stir criticism for reduction of free speech and of freedom of expression of the most numerous ethnic minority.