Syrian raids target rebel-held town

34 killed in strikes on Darkush; Islamist-held Jisr al-Shughur also hit

Syrian government air strikes on a marketplace on Sunday killed at least 34 civilians, including women and children, in a rebel-held town near the border with Turkey, a monitoring group said.

The strikes on Darkush came a day after rebels seized Jisr al-Shughur, another town some 20 km to the south and in the same province of Idlib.

“At least 34 civilians were killed in regime air strikes on a market in the town of Darkush, among the dead were nine women and a number of children,” said Rami Abdel Rahman of the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

Regime’s stronghold

Jisr al-Shughur was one of the regime’s last remaining strongholds in the northwestern province, and its fall has left government-held territory elsewhere in neighbouring Latakia and Hama provinces open to new attack.

Earlier on Sunday, regime war planes carried out dozens of strikes on Jisr al-Shughur, which was captured by a coalition of groups including Al-Qaeda’s Syrian affiliate Al-Nusra Front.

The same coalition captured the city of Idlib last month, making it only the second provincial capital to fall from government control.

Syrian authorities will allow citizens abroad, including refugees who fled the war, to obtain passports without an intelligence service review for the first time, Syria’s Al-Watan newspaper said on Sunday.

Climate for negotiations

The daily, which is close to the government, said the move would “create an appropriate climate” for consultations in Geneva next month on the possibility of renewed peace talks.

It also noted that the fees for the new procedures — which are being doubled — would be “an important source of foreign exchange”.

The newspaper said the new measures were detailed in a document sent on Thursday to Syrian embassies around the world.

This authorised embassies “to issue or renew passports for Syrians abroad without having to go through the department of emigration and passports in Damascus”, Al-Watan reported. — AFP

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