July 8, 2013 in Nation/World

Syrian prison shelled in battle; group says six prisoners killed

Diaa Hadid Associated Press

BEIRUT – Shells smashed into a central prison in the embattled Syrian city of Aleppo, killing prisoners, a rights group said Sunday, part of a long battle for control of the ancient city.

The explosions killed six prisoners, said the British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, which communicates with a network of activists on the ground. The explosives hit on Friday night, the Observatory said. It was not clear who fired the shells.

The Observatory reported about 70 soldiers and fighters were killed on Sunday, as well as 40 civilians, in fighting across Syria. The U.N. estimates some 93,000 people have been killed in the civil war.

With government forces stepping up offensives, the Syrian Muslim Brotherhood called on the U.S. and Europe to send arms.

“Providing the Free Syrian Army and the revolutionary rebels with appropriate arms is more urgent now than at any time in the past,” the movement wrote on social media sites. “We feel cheated and disappointed because the U.S. and Europe have backed out from arming the FSA,” it said.

Last month the U.S. decided in principle to provide some weapons to rebel forces, though Western countries are concerned they might land in the hands of extremist Sunni Muslims fighting with the rebels.

The forces include an al-Qaida-linked group which has been fighting for weeks to seize control of the prison in Aleppo, besieging it. The Observatory estimated some 120 prisoners have died in the jail since April from fighting, illness and executions.

Syria’s state-run news agency SANA said “a number” of rebels were killed in the shelling but did not give an exact number.

Aleppo, Syria’s largest city, is near the border with Turkey. Many of its ancient monuments and its marketplace, once a magnet for tourists, have been destroyed in fighting.

Rebels and government forces also clashed near the Shiite towns of Nubul and Zahra in Aleppo province, the Observatory and pro-rebel activists reported.

The Observatory said fighting killed three regime troops, including one foreigner, code for a fighter from the Lebanese Shiite Hezbollah.

Rebels claim that Assad’s forces and Hezbollah fighters are in the two towns. A hard-line Sunni brigade warned last week it would punish Shiites for harboring the forces, suggesting the towns’ populations of some 40,000 Shiites could be targeted.

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