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Conflict kills 71 in Syria

A total of 71 people were reportedly killed on Thursday in separate car bombs and battles between the Syrian army and rebels across the country, local media reported.

At least seven people were killed and many others wounded on Thursday when two rebel car bombs exploded in the countryside of Syria's northeastern province of Hasaka, which is largely populated by Kurds, the official SANA news agency said.

The first car went off near a school at the entrance of the town of Ras al-Ein, north of Hasaka, killing two people and injuring some others. The second car bomb simultaneously exploded at the al-Khamis marketplace in the town of Tal Halaf, west of Ras al-Ein, killing five people.

SANA spelled no further details, but both towns are predominately Kurdish near the Turkish borders.

Syria's Kurds pose some 15 percent of Syria's 23 million inhabitants, of which most live in the north of the embattled country. They tried to keep their areas immune from military operations during the conflict and retain some kind of "autonomy."

However, fighting has broken out in northern Syria between the Kurds and the Nusra Front, covering all the Kurdish areas in northern Syria. The Kurds managed to hold their ground in a number of areas, such as Ras al-Ein.

In the capital Damascus, the rebels' mortar shelling continued on Thursday against a number of districts of the capital, namely al-Amara, Qazzasin, Salhiyeh and Jaramana.

SANA said the armed militant groups fired 16 mortar shells on Jaramana, wounding at least 22 people.

The incident was the latest in a string of similar shelling attacks by suspected militant groups that aimed to shake the government's grip on the area and to retaliate the army's advancement on many fronts in central and southern Syria.

Separately, SANA said the Syrian army fought the rebels on Thursday in the eastern countryside of Damascus, the central Homs province, Idlib and Aleppo in northwestern Syria. The report said the army killed 30 rebels during the battles in Aleppo.

Meanwhile, the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, which relies on a network of activists on ground, claimed that 12 civilians were killed in Aleppo on Thursday by the government troops' aerial bombardment on the rebel-held Karm al- Beik neighborhood.

Activists have for long accused the government troops' aircraft of dropping crude, explosive-filled barrels on rebel-held areas in Aleppo.

The Observatory added that 22 fighters of the al-Qaida- affiliated Nusra Front and the Ahrar al-Sham movement were killed during clashes with the Syrian army in the southern province of Daraa.

Reports estimated that more than 150,000 people have been killed so far since the Syrian crisis started in mid-March 2011.

[Source: Xinhua, Damascus, 24Apr14]

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