Syrian rebels shell Aleppo as Assad urges peace talks | Reuters

 Syrian rebels shell Aleppo as Assad urges peace talks
| Reuters

BEIRUT Syrian rebels shelled Aleppo on Friday killing at least three people, media reported, as Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and his allies said the insurgents' withdrawal from the city could pave the way towards a political solution for the country.A day after the last rebels left their remaining pocket of territory in the city, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights - a Britain-based war monitor - said about 10 shells fell in its southwestern al-Hamdaniya district.The Observatory said six people, including two children, were killed, while state television said at least three people died.In the capital Damascus, authorities said on Friday rebels had polluted the water with diesel, forcing it to cut the supply for a few days. Reserves would be used until the problem was resolved. Insurgents seeking to oust Syrian President Bashar al-Assad have frequently shelled the areas of Aleppo that have been under government control throughout the conflict, which began in 2011. The destruction in those parts of the city has been far less than in the eastern districts that rebels held until this month. The last of them left the city late on Thursday for countryside immediately to the west, under a ceasefire deal in which the International Committee of the Red Cross said about 35,000 people, mostly civilians, had departed.

Many of those who left the city are living as refugees in the areas to the west and south of Aleppo, including in Idlib province where bulldozers were used to clear heavy snowfall on Friday morning, the opposition Orient television showed. On Friday morning the army and its allies, including the Lebanese group Hezbollah, searched districts abandoned by the rebels to clear them of mines and other dangers, the Observatory reported. State television showed footage of the al-Ansari district, including empty streets lined with apartment blocks smashed by air strikes.

PEACE TALKS?
During the long struggle to re-take Aleppo, Assad's forces were supported by heavy Russian air strikes, Iran-backed militias and fighters from Iran-backed Shi'ite Hezbollah.On Friday Assad thanked Russian President Vladimir Putin for having been Syria's main partner in the battle, and said the city's fall had opened the door to a political process.

Putin said Russia, Iran, Turkey and Assad had agreed the Kazakh capital of Astana should be the venue for new peace negotiations, and Hezbollah leader Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah said the defeat of the rebels in the city could pave the way to a political solution.Turkey backs rebels fighting Assad and Islamic State.United Nations-backed peace talks in Geneva broke down earlier this year as violence escalated, particularly around Aleppo. (Reporting by Angus McDowall and Lisa Barrington; editing by John Stonestreet)

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Updated Date: Dec 24, 2016 01:31:59 IST