Fresh clashes erupt in Aleppo following deadliest month yet

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Fresh battles broke out in a flashpoint district of Aleppo on Monday, while violence raged on the road linking the Syrian city to its international airport, a watchdog said.

“Fierce clashes raged between troops and rebels in the east of Sheikh Maqsud district,” said the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a day after a major rebel advance in the predominantly Kurdish neighborhood.

Regime tanks fired shells at other parts of the neighborhood, whose residents fled the area in large numbers for a second straight day.

Southeast of Aleppo, fresh clashes broke out near the city's international airport, said the Observatory, which relies on a network of activists, doctors and lawyers across Syria for its reports.

The airport has been closed since January.

Aleppo city has been scene of some of Syria's fiercest violence since battles first broke out in the northern city in July last year.

Much of the city has since been destroyed, and residents suffer constant power cuts and frequent water shortages.

To the west of the city, an air strike on rebel-held the town of Maaret al-Numan killed at least one child, said the Observatory, which reported several others injured.

Located in the northwestern province of Idlib, Maaret al-Numan has been under rebel control since October last year.

Elsewhere, a blast caused by an explosive device hit the Rokn Eddin district in northern Damascus, said the Observatory, which also reported renewed shelling by government troops on rebel-held districts in the central city of Homs.

Monday's violence comes a day after at least 181 people were killed across Syria, among them 57 rebels, 67 civilians and 57 loyalist troops, the Observatory reported.

The month of March was the deadliest in Syria's two-year conflict, with more than 6,000 people killed, the Observatory said on Monday.

“At least 6,005 people were killed in March. A total of 2,080 were civilians, among them 298 children aged under 16. Another 291 fatalities were women,” said Abdel Rahman.

Most rebel fighters in Syria's conflict are civilians who have taken up arms to fight against forces loyal to President Bashar al-Assad.

Of the total killed in March, at least 2,074 were rebel fighters, among them 86 former Syrian army soldiers who defected and joined the insurgency, Abdel Rahman said.

Also among them were 588 rebels whose names the group could not verify, including “a large number of non-Syrian fighters,” said the Observatory, which relies on a network of activists, lawyers and medics for its information.

Also killed were 1,464 troops loyal to the Assad regime, Abdel Rahman told AFP.

The Observatory also reported the deaths of 387 people whose identities were impossible to verify.

“We believe the actual numbers of army troops and rebels killed in March were higher,” said Abdel Rahman, adding both sides in Syria's war try to conceal the full extent of casualties to boost morale.

The United Nations said in January that more than 70,000 people have been killed in Syria since March 2011.

But the Observatory said on Monday that according to its count, so far 62,594 people have been killed in the conflict, including at least 30,782 civilians, 15,283 troops, and 14,302 rebels.

The Observatory uses reports from the field and footage of bodies to document fatalities. It also works to record the victims' names, though Abdel Rahman admits that is not always possible.

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