World Bulletin/News Desk
Forces loyal to President Bashar al-Assad hammered the eastern Syrian city of Raqqa with more than two dozen air strikes on Sunday, targeting areas controlled by the ISIL militant group, a monitoring group said.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, which has tracked violence on all sides of the conflict that began in March 2011, said at least 31 fighters from the ISIL were killed and dozens wounded in the air strikes that hit Raqqa city and the surrounding areas.
It said 26 strikes on Sunday hit ISIL buildings, including the military court and bases in the city.
The conflict in Syria started when Assad cracked down on a pro-democracy uprising, which then armed itself.
Until this summer, Assad's forces held off from targeting the ISIL. This has allowed the group to thrive and also weaken less hardline opposition groups that are backed by the West.
But this month, ISIL fighters have gained momentum in Syria, boosted by equipment seized in a rapid offensive in neighbouring Iraq, and the Syrian army has become more confrontational, using air strikes to kill fighters.
Raqqa is a major stronghold of the ISIL, which took one of the Syrian government's last outposts there on Thursday.
A resident in Raqqa said government warplanes had stepped up their bombardment five days ago.
On Saturday, there had been 16 air strikes, with dozens of artillery rounds also fired at areas under ISIL control, he said, speaking via Skype and declining to be identified out of concern for his safety.
"About 30 percent of the strikes hit the ISIL positions, the rest (hit) civilian areas," he said.
More than 170,000 people have been killed in Syria's civil war, which pits overwhelmingly Sunni Muslim rebels against Assad, a member of the Shi'ite-derived Alawite minority, backed by Shi'ite militias from Iraq and Lebanon.Last Mod: 17 Ağustos 2014, 22:54