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Monday 22 January 2018

Rebels 'capture 32 Syrian troops'

Fighting is raging again in Aleppo
Fighting is raging again in Aleppo

Syrian rebels have captured 32 soldiers and pro-government gunmen near the northern city of Aleppo, according to activists.

The UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights and Aleppo-based activist Ahmad Hamed said the troops were seized in the village of Ratyan after it was retaken by the rebels on Wednesday.

The Observatory said rebels have also recaptured the village of Hardatnein, two days after it was taken by government forces.

The Observatory and Mr Hamed say intense clashes are taking outside a third village, Bashkoy, which was also taken by the government two days ago.

The fighting comes as UN envoy Staffan de Mistura is trying to broker a truce for the war-ravaged Aleppo, Syria's largest city.

An amateur video posted online showed some 28 men in military uniforms sitting on the floor inside a room.

The men, who included at least two wounded, were then asked to stand up and leave the room one by one under the watch of rebels.

The video appeared genuine and corresponded to other reports of the capture and fighting in the area north of Aleppo.

The international medical humanitarian organisation Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) urged all parties to facilitate the evacuation of people wounded in the clashes, which it said had triggered a new wave of displaced families trying to reach the Turkish border to seek shelter.

It said medical staff were forced to evacuate an MSF facility on the outskirts of Aleppo because of the worsening insecurity.

"Our paramount concern is that the clashes block the only road open between Aleppo and the northern border with Turkey, making it almost impossible to run ambulance services and provide medical and humanitarian assistance to the people trapped by war in eastern Aleppo," said Raquel Ayora, MSF director of operations.

State-run Syrian TV reported that troops are still advancing in the north, adding that Syrian opposition fighters are coming from Turkey to take part in the battles near Aleppo.

The Observatory said 90 troops and pro-government gunmen, in addition to 81 rebels, have been killed since the fighting began on Tuesday.

In Geneva, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Raad al-Hussein urged Syrian authorities to release all those held by government forces and pro-government groups. Some detainees have been held for years.

The High Commissioner estimated the number of people in Syria who have been held at some point or other in government and intelligence detention facilities range from tens of thousands to hundreds of thousands since the crisis began in March 2011.

"I urge the Syrian government to immediately release all those who have been jailed for peaceful expression of their views and to ensure that all those detained are accorded their full due process rights," Prince Zeid said.

Press Association

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